Photographer Long Hua was amazed by the Markthal, or Market Hall, in Rotterdam during his recent trip to the Netherlands. The horseshoe-shaped building attracts many visitors like Long, who come to marvel at the unique architecture, market stalls and colorful artworks.
"It's the most gorgeous food market in the world," Long said from his home in Tianjin. "The amazing artwork, fruits and vegetables play off of each other."
More and more Chinese tourists are discovering the Netherlands, with greater numbers making it their main destination when they travel to Europe. For Chinese tourists on group tours, it is one of the must-go European nations along with France, Germany and Italy.
"The trend is that some Chinese just go to Europe to visit the Netherlands," said Cai Xiaohui, deputy China director of the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions. "Many want to have in-depth travels in the appealing country."
According to Cai, tourists come to enjoy a beautiful spring in the Netherlands when its iconic tulips come into bloom; and in summer, it's a good time to travel with children. "It's cost-effective to visit the country in winter too. It's the discount season and there are winter sports such as ice skating and winter swimming."
In the atrium of the Hague City Hall, an annual Spring Festival celebration will take place on Feb 17, complete with traditional Chinese dancing, music and acrobatics.
"The Netherlands is perfect for those who travel with children," Cai says. "Parents can combine education and amusement and children love museums like the NEMO Science Museum, which has many interactive experiences."
In 2017, Chinese tourists had about 365,000 overnight hotel stays in the country, up 23 percent year-on-year, according to official statistics.
Online travel agency Ctrip's data show that the number of Chinese visitors traveling to the Netherlands has grown rapidly in the past five years, with the exception of 2016 when the numbers dipped due to a series of terrorist attacks in Europe. Despite this, the number of Chinese tourists that visited the Netherlands recovered greatly in 2017.
Compared with other European countries, there has been no recent terrorist attacks in the Netherlands and it was included in the top 20 most peaceful countries, according to the 2017 Global Peace Index from the Institute for Economics and Peace.
Zou Yu, director of Ctrip's tourism business in Europe, said the Dutch government is working hard to improve public service standards and travel experiences for Chinese visitors. For example, from January, Chinese shoppers can pay using mobile payment system Alipay at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.