Chinese tourists will descend on Europe this weekend as celebrations for Chinese New Year start, although many will favour other destinations over the UK.
Think tank China Tourism Academy has predicted 225 million Chinese will travel to Europe during the Spring Festival period, which goes on into early February.
Kuoni Group Travel Experts and B2B arm GTA have found Italy to be the Chinese tourists’ most popular destination, followed by France, Switzerland, Spain and Germany.
These destinations were also named in a recent survey of Travelzoo’s Asia Pacific readers.
Unsurprisingly the UK has fallen behind in the wish-list for Chinese tourists with its lengthy visa process and limited air traffic, although the Travelzoo survey found there is also little awareness of what’s on offer in the UK to Chinese tourists.
The deals website and newsletter estimates the UK is missing out on more than GBP1 billion annually from potential Chinese tourists, who are expected to take an average 6.5 leisure trips this year and spend GBP5,000 doing so.
While brands like Kuoni are still proving popular with tours, the Travelzoo survey of its Asia Pacific readers found only 30% like this style of holiday with 51% opting for all-inclusive or accommodation and transport holidays.
“Despite the trade mission from George Osborne to Beijing in October 2013, there are still various factors which mean the UK isn’t the destination of choice for Chinese travellers – a lot of it is to do with lack of awareness about what’s on offer in Britain but there are other issues, including the ridiculous visa situation,” said Jason Yap, CEO of Travelzoo Asia Pacific. “Those that set standards and create higher value will certainly benefit from the golden period of Asia’s tourism development.”
However it isn’t all bad news for the UK, as those who do make the trip are expected to spend a lot when they are here.
Luxury UK retailers are expecting a surge in sales from Chinese visitors in the next week after sales during CNY in 2013 were 14% higher than the previous year.
This year the company has predicted this will increase a further 34% this year, after sales during October’s Golden Week soared 35% in 2013 year-on-year.
“Chinese shoppers represented almost a quarter of total tax free spend in the UK last year. As a key Chinese holiday period, retailers are bracing themselves for a significant uplift in Chinese visitors for Chinese New Year and, in hopes to repeat the 35% Y-O-Y growth in sales seen over Golden Week, many are increasing Mandarin speaking staff and refreshing their cultural training to prepare,” said Global Blue’s UK country manager Gordon Clark.
London will be the focus for luxury travel with shoppers spending an average of GBP741 per tax-free transaction last year.
Key to the success is companies offering services dedicated to Chinese visitors.
Alexandra Allason, tourism marketing at Fortnum and Mason said: “We will be running cultural training sessions for our staff and have Mandarin-speaking sales staff available for private shopping requests, increasing the number of China Union Pay terminals and running promotions with them throughout the store and have extra supplies of Mandarin Store Guides. We are seeing an increase in trust from Chinese shoppers and we have every reason to believe that their loyalty to Fortnum’s will continue to grow, so we are working hard to make sure that it is rewarded.”