2016/01/14

Chinese visitors to Britain soars by 28% in first half of 2015

A recent VisitBritian report shows a record number of visitors from China coming to Britain, with 90,000 recorded in the first six months of this year, an increase of 28% compared to the same period in 2014.

China has become one of the UK's fastest-growing tourism markets with international visits to Britain from China more than doubling over the last five years from 89,000 in 2009 to 185,000 in 2014, VisitBritain says.

VisitBritain believes the campaign building on VisitBritain's Great China Naming campaign earlier this year, where Chinese people were invited to suggest new names for British landmarks, has inspired more Chinese visitors to come to Britain.

VisitBritain promotes tourism to the UK worldwide, and advises the government and various industries on tourism matters.

Sally Balcombe, Chief Executive of VisitBritain says, "The state visit of the President of China Xi Jinping…..is a fantastic opportunity for us to inspire more international visitors from China to come and explore all the nations and regions of Britain."

Chinese are revealed as some of Britain's highest spending visitors, with an average of 2,688 pounds expenditure each, four times more than the average, according to VisitBritain. The total expenditure of Chinese visitors to Britain in 2014 reached nearly 500 million pounds.

Over the last five years the Chinese spend in the UK has increased by 326%, from 117 million pounds in 2009 to 497.47 million pounds in 2014. In addition, they tend to stay longer with an average holiday length of 10 nights compared to six nights for all visitors on average.

British fashion brands are particularly popular with the Chinese, and visiting a luxury store is also reflected in high-spend across the Chinese market, with almost 40% of Chinese visitors heading for shopping at luxury stores, according to VisitBritain, which explains why Bicester Village, a retail outlet park in Oxfordshire, is one of the UK tourist attractions most visited by Chinese tourist along with Buckingham Palace.

According to David Collyer, Tourism Director at Bicester Village, it is also the second most popular shopping destination among Chinese after Oxford Street, outperforming all other shopping destinations, with Heathrow airport being the third.

Collyer believes Bicester Village's collection of 134 world leading luxury brands and a discount at up to 60 percent of recommended retail price are the key reasons making its top destinations for Chinese visitors.

It is deeply rooted in the Chinese culture to buy presents for friends and family when away, says David Higgins, General Manager at China Links Travel, adding "there are lots of famous brands in Bicester Village, the place that the Chinese believe they don't need to worry about fake products, and happy to buy the same things with relative lower price, compared to the price in China."

China Links Travel has also witnessed the swelling influx of Chinese tourist to the UK, with its inbound business increasing year on year, says Higgins.

"We are looking to employ one additional staff member to support our 2016 tours. Our tour arrivals in October this year were up 300% on 2014. Tours are now taking place across the year and not just peak times," he adds.

Although the number of Chinese tourists to Britain is growing, some found their experience disappointing.

Dong Xuemin, from Hangzhou, China, told China Daily she came to visit her friends in London along with her daughter, and joined a group tour organized by Omega Travel, one of the leading travel agencies which is well known among Chinese community in the UK, but she was very disappointed with the service Omega Travel has provided to the customers.

"We joined a five-day tour which covers many major cities in the UK, but the first thing was, we were greeted by the tour guide when we embarked on the bus, demanding tips before offering any services," Dong said.

"Majority of the Chinese tourists followed the guide's order without asking any questions, as I believe, they did not want to be in a disturbed mood whilst out for sightseeing," added Dong.

During the whole trip, Dong and her daughter were treated poorly and sometimes overlooked by the guide because she refused to pay the tips beforehand.

Dong said she found it difficult to protest in a foreign country without knowing the language during her short visit in the UK.

"I think Omega has been trading unfairly and my odyssey with Omega certainly tainted my impression of Britain as a whole," Dong said.

China Daily contacted Omega Travel, who said they would investigate the dispute but had no immediate comment.

Higgins at China Links Travel says he also heard some stories from drivers that they didn't want to work for next day unless they got the tips, though they have not come across that from guides.

"Tourist have to choose the agent with high reputation and make sure they know what services are included and what is payable in resort before they sign the contact," Higgins says.