Relief for Europe from the monetary crisis is coming from an unlikely source: China, and not from the government, but from students and tourists looking to make the best of a bad situation.
This year alone, 180,000 less Chinese secondary students took the national college entrance exam compared to 2011. All in all, the Legal Evening News says, nearly 3 million high-school students in the past four years have opted not to take the test. At the same time, the number of Chinese students studying abroad has increased over the past four years by about 20 percent annually.
The lowering exchange rate of the euro to the yuan will further reduce living expenses in Europe, said Wang Zhenyu, programmer officer of the European Union Delegation in China. Many Chinese students are even quitting university programs in their home countries to save money at schools in the EU zone.
Wang Yue, a tutor at Neworiental Corporation Beijing, said the depreciation of the European currency has reduced tuition fees and living costs and that “studying at the same [European] school, the expenses are 20 percent lower than the year before.”
However, Wang also points out that currency movements are temporary and that “the real criteria for attracting students is academic excellence, which has a long-lasting effect.”
“Many of my classmates here spend too much time on social networking websites and do not have a clue what they will do afterward,” said Zhang Yuqing, who quit her computer science program in Beijing to instead apply to one of the French grandes ecoles. “I want to be more prepared for a job when I graduate from college. I believe Paris can teach me that.”
France is also becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination, even if Europeans are scrimping on vacation. Chen Chaoying, general manager of travel agency Mandarin Voyages in Paris, said, “Our business catering for European tourists is shrinking but that has been offset by the fast-growing number of incoming Chinese tourists.”
But it’s not just France that’s benefitting.
“Compared with June 2011, the euro has lowered by roughly 15 percent,” said Oliver Sedlinger, director of marketing and sales in Beijing at the German National Tourist Office. Sedlinger believes that the lowering euro will especially boost Chinese tourists’ interest in Germany. “In the first three months of this year, we saw an increase of 20.8 percent compared with 2011,” Sedlinger said.
Tian Yuan, 27 of Beijing, plans to honeymoon later this month in Greece and Italy. “A weaker euro is definitely a reason that my husband and I decided to travel to Europe,” Tian said. “It means everything will be cheaper than before although Greece might not be as stable as it was because of the crisis.”
“We are very positive about prospects for the Chinese market. A weaker euro is clearly going to stimulate more tourists from China,” said Yu Mio, who manages the Far East department of Incentive Europe, a travel agency in the Netherlands.
The Chinese market accounted for $4.38 million of revenue for Incentive Europe in 2011. Yu expects that figure to grow by 20 percent for 2012.