With Golden Week, China’s seven day annual holiday starting tomorrow (1 October), many Chinese people are expected to travel outside of the country and despite the UK’s visa system remaining difficult, more are choosing to come here than ever before according to our national tourism agency.
Visits from China to the UK have more than doubled over the last five years – from 89,000 in 2009 to 185,000 in 2014 - and data from Capstats.com shows that seat availability on flights from China are up 16 per cent for October 2015 compared to the same month last year.
Chinese visitors also spend more than many other foreign tourists - £2,688 each which is four times more than the average - and stay for 10 nights on average compared to the average of six across all inbound visits.
VisitBritain CEO Sally Balcombe said work was continuing to be done to make Britain 'the destination of choice' for Chinese visitors and the aim was to double the current annual expenditure in the UK by Chinese visitors to £1 billion a year within the next five years.
She said: “China is the world’s largest outbound market and a huge tourism opportunity for Britain. Chinese visitors have very positive perceptions of Britain, they already stay longer here than in our European competitor destinations and are high spenders – every 22 additional Chinese visitors we attract supports an additional job in tourism.
“We are working hard to make sure that Britain is the destination of choice for the rapidly-growing Chinese market, further increasing their desire to travel here through high-profile campaigns in China, as part of our GREAT campaign.”
With more Chinese visitors choosing to come and spend holidays in the UK, VisitBritain has created its China Welcome programme which gives advice to tourism and hospitality operators on how to make their businesses welcoming to them and best market themselves.
Earlier this year hotel group IHG launched its 'China ready' Zhou Dao programme to ensure all its hotels are ready to welcome Chinese guests.
Stephen McCall, chief operating officer, Europe at IHG told BigHospitality that if businesses wanted to attract people from China they had a duty to understand what their likes and dislikes are.
"Until recently China was a closed country and they didn’t have the same exposure to other cultures, so they do have specific likes and dislikes," he said.
IHG now ensures it has a Mandarin speaker at all 80 of its 'China ready' hotels across the globe. Hotels also have special welcome packs for Chinese guests, have tailored food and beverage options and accept UnionPay.
"UnionPay is the only bank card Chinese have access to so if your business doesn’t take it how can you take payment from them?," said McCall who believes IHG had to lead the way in being 'China ready'.
"It’s particularly important to IHG that we’re welcoming," he said. "We’re a big player in China. When people travel they recognise our brand and will come and stay with us so we have to lead the way.”
Despite the increase in the number of Chinese visitors coming to the UK, McCall said the figure could be higher if the visa process was made easier.
"The biggest job is getting them here in the first place. This has been the big issue. The visa system in the UK is so complicated, so many Chinese people just head to cities like Paris or Berlin instead where it is much easier to visit."