The number of Chinese visitors to the UK reached a record last year, breaking the half-million mark, and up by more than 150% since 2012.
To capitalise on this success, VisitBritain has teamed with the newly renamed UK China Visitor Alliance (UKCVA) to form a Chinese Visitor Working Group, to “drive Chinese visitor numbers to new heights”.
More than 100 business leaders from across the UK met at The Hippodrome Casino in London’s Leicester Square today (March 14) for the launch of the Chinese Visitor Working Group.
With representatives from business, the Home Office and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the group will look at initiatives to attract even more Chinese visitors to the UK.
When formed in 2012, the UKCVA was called the UK China Visa Alliance, and the UK issued just 210,958 visitor visas in China. That figure rose to 531,967 in 2017 – a 152% increase.
Brian Bickell, UKCVA chairman, said: “Since its formation in 2012 the UK China Visa Alliance has focussed mainly on the visa application process for Chinese visitors.
“The formation of the Chinese Visitor Working Group is recognition of the need to look, not just at the visa system, but also at the whole Chinese visitor experience and spend, which is why we have decided to change our name to the UK China Visitor Alliance.
“The 2017 figures show great progress and are a fantastic example of business and government working together to boost the UK economy.”
Speaking at the launch, Matt Hancock MP (pictured), secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, said: “This record tourism growth from China is testament to the strength our world-class culture, sightseeing and shopping. We will continue to work closely with the tourism sector to ensure future growth and attract even more Chinese visitors to the UK.”
Figures from tax-free shopping specialist Global Blue figures show annual Chinese visitor spend on shopping in UK rose by 32% in 2017 – following a 26% rise in 2016.
Jacques Stern, chief executive of Global Blue, said: “Chinese shoppers are driving tax-free shopping growth worldwide.
“Shopping is a key reason for them to travel abroad and over half of all their spending is on shopping.
“As the numbers of Chinese travellers continue to grow, they must be the key market for the UK’s tourist economy.”
Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of London First – an organisation tasked with making London “the best place in the world for business” – said: “We’ve made it simpler for Chinese visitors to come to the UK as part of a European trip – and our shops, theatres, hotels and restaurants are seeing the benefits.
“But we must go further to ensure London, and the UK, can compete with other ‘must-see’ destinations.”
Picture credits: David Parry.