Record Number of Chinese Tourists Drawn to UK for Cheap Shopping

    A cheaper pound has finally resulted in a dramatic uptick in Chinese tourists to the UK, with cheaper luxury retail being a key draw.
    The Burberry flagship store on Regent Street in London. The majority of shoppers at this location are Chinese. Photo: Shutterstock
    Mason HinsdaleAuthor
      Published   in Travel

    Britain is on path to have record breaking year for inbound Chinese tourists and tourist spending. It seems that the weak pound in the wake of the ongoing political uncertainty in the UK will be bringing more visitors from China, with cheaper shopping being a major draw. Jing Daily already reported on how the cheaper pound would likely serve as a draw Chinese tourists, and it seems the expected rush is finally coming.

    ForwardKeys, a travel consultancy, has released data that indicates that long-haul flight bookings to the UK are up 10 percent from where they were this time last year. However, the key source markets that are driving this growth are the US, up 19 percent, and China, up a whopping 29 percent. This sets the UK on a path for both a record breaking summer and year in terms of Chinese arrivals.

    While Chinese tourists to the UK are interested in a variety of tourist activities, which certainly includes site seeing, it seems that luxury shopping is one of the biggest draws. For example, it is estimated that 70 percent of shoppers visiting Burberry’s flagship store in London are Chinese tourists.

    This year’s terror attacks in Britain, especially the Manchester attack, led to some speculation that inbound tourism to the UK would be hampered but it now seems that they have had little impact.

    Instead, a weaker pound means that more Chinese tourists are willing to come to the UK in order to take advantage of cheaper prices. From the Brexit Referendum in June of last year to the present, the value of the British pound in RMB has dropped from ¥9.6 to ¥8.8. This seems to be the chief driver of the dramatic growth of Chinese tourism to the UK.

    This is good news for retailers in the UK as Chinese tourists are notoriously big spenders. Moreover, given the high prices of authentic luxury branded goods in China, Chinese tourists often make an effort to shop at luxury retailers abroad.

    According to Visit Britain, Chinese tourists to the UK spent an average of £2,000 during their visits last year. This is actually a sharp drop from 2013 when average spending reached a high of £2,500, but still double the average spending per US visitor.

    Arrivals and spending of Chinese tourists dropped last year by 3.4 percent and 12.4 percent respectively due to the November 2015 Paris attacks. However, numbers this year are putting Britain on a path to recover from this and surpass expectations.

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