British firms are being urged to think about tailoring their customer service and marketing strategies around Mandarin as a major campaign to encourage more Chinese tourists to visit the UK is launched.
The campaign, announced as part of the Government’s three-day trade trip to China, aims to secure 650,000 Chinese visits to the UK by 2020 – a number worth £1.1 billion a year to the UK economy.
While Chinese tourists are not (yet) in the top ten inbound markets for UK tourism, they are one of the fastest growing groups of visitors to the country. A record 179,000 Chinese visited the UK in 2012, spending a total of £300 million.
For the first half of this year alone, Chinese visits rose 21% compared with the first six months of 2012, while spending has shot up 132% to £181 million.
Going live in spring 2014, VisitBritain’s China Welcome initiative is calling on firms to focus their efforts on the needs of Chinese visitors and make the UK the most welcoming destination in Europe for them to visit.
What can businesses do?
Key steps firms can take to ensure they communicate to Chinese visitors effectively include:
- Provide information in Mandarin
- Recruit Mandarin-speaking staff for particularly busy trading periods, such as Christmas
- Tourism firms could think about training up qualified Mandarin-speaking guides
- Offering translated content on websites and social media
- Translated visitor literature such as guides, menus and booklets
VisitBritain said that firms including Virgin Atlantic, Marketing Manchester, John Lewis and Harrods are all already providing information in Mandarin and have seen a “significant number” of Chinese visitors as a result.
Culture Secretary Maria Miller, who launched the programme at an event in China, said the campaign was “just the beginning”.
“We want businesses from up and down the country to get involved, sign up and be part of this new game-changing initiative,” she said.
“The new ‘China Welcome’ initiative shows how serious we are about making sure Britain is ahead of the competition when it comes to attracting Chinese businesses and tourists. We are determined to encourage more Chinese people come to our shores, enjoy our culture, heritage, food, sport, shopping, countryside and music and invest in our country.”
The China Welcome initiative follows a number of moves to encourage Chinese tourism.
In October, George Osborne, the Chancellor, announced that visa applications for Chinese visitors entering the UK would be simplified.
Under the plans, Chinese nationals visiting the EU will not need to submit separate UK visa applications if they book with selected travel agents.
‘£70,000 in two hours’
Chinese tourists are big spenders, and are becoming increasingly interested in exploring parts of the UK beyond London.
Speaking to the Guardian in October, Nai-Lin Yeh, who organises tours for Chinese visitors in the UK, said: “I took a group of eight to Harrods last week and they spent £70,000 in two hours. One of them almost bought a watch for £290,000.”
Carey Fletcher, group chairman of China Britain Travel Group, said return visitors are more likely to explore sights outside the capital.
“Now groups are going to the Lake District, which previously they weren’t going to at all. Brighton and Portsmouth are also getting more popular,” he said.