As the UK saw its Chinese visitor numbers spike in recent years, many London hotels and retail shops made efforts to cash in on the influx. Now, the surge has expanded across many British towns and cities such as Manchester and York, prompting businesses and tourism boards to make similar preparations in hopes of enticing Chinese travelers beyond the boundaries of England’s capital city.
The nation’s concerted effort to attract Chinese tourists works at all levels, from loosened visa restrictions that facilitate travel all the way down to British retailers around the country orienting their customer service for the Chinese tourist. In addition, British tourist board Visit Britain created the Great China Welcome charter in March to welcome Chinese tourists. It assists British businesses with a “charter mark” to show Chinese tourists which ones are “China-ready,” cognizant of the high spending power that Chinese tourists wield. As a result, various less-common British locations have seen their visitor numbers grow.
Manchester’s tourist board Marketing Manchester recently released a Chinese-language shopping guide for Chinese tourists, pointing out tax-free retailers and giving advice on how to claim back value-added tax. According to the Manchester Evening News, Chinese tourists are the biggest spenders among visitors to the city, and account for half of Manchester’s income from tax-free shopping. Chinese travelers are drawn to Manchester for its soccer clubs and concentration of luxury brands, said Jane Sharrocks, general manager of Selfridges Exchange Square in Manchester, and retailers have installed payment options allowing Chinese credit cards.
Meanwhile, York’s tourist board Visit York’s efforts extend not only to Chinese-language visitor guides, but also online to Chinese social media platforms Weibo and WeChat. The tourist board, charter-marked as “China-ready” by Visit Britain, will create a Chinese-language video promoting York to release on Weibo and WeChat. It is also helping businesses streamline their customer service toward the Chinese traveler. This includes not only equipping retailers with Chinese credit card payment options, but also understanding Chinese tourists’ demands—the Churchill Hotel in York tailors a welcome pack for Chinese guests, which includes Chinese green tea and noodle snacks, among other items.
While not at the same scale as Manchester and York, many businesses in other British towns, such as popular outlet malls Bicester Village in Bicester, Oxfordshire, and Clarks Village in Street, Somerset have also started catering to the Chinese tourists’ needs. These locales are in proximity to famous landmarks—Chinese tourists visiting the Windsor Castle usually go to Bicester Village after, and a trip to the Stonehenge is usually rounded off with a shopping spree at Clarks Village. These establishments have fully translated Chinese versions of their websites as well as signs in Chinese.
Chinese tourist numbers into the United Kingdom are expected to triple to 650,000 in 2020, according to Visit Britain. As the numbers keep growing, more tourism boards and businesses across the UK are likely to adjust their marketing and retail strategies to help Chinese tourists see more than just the Buckingham Palace and Harrods in London.