VisitBritain: Making tourism providers “China ready” paying off

LONDON, England - Britain’s efforts to make itself a more welcoming destination to Chinese visitors appear to be paying off with new research showing aspirational travel from China to the UK is on t

VisitBritain: Making tourism providers “China ready” paying off

LONDON, England – Britain’s efforts to make itself a more welcoming destination to Chinese visitors appear to be paying off with new research showing aspirational travel from China to the UK is on the up.
The 2014 Anhold Gfk Nations Brand Index (NBI) study, showed China ranked Britain in second place out of 50 nations for tourism, one place higher than 2013 – when it lay behind the USA and Germany. And in a study of aspirational places to visit, if money was no object, the Chinese rated Britain fourth, a jump of five places in a year.

“Marked uplifts are rare among perception rankings, which are based on strongly-held beliefs that take a long time to shift,” said a VisitBritain spokesperson. Actual inbound tourism visits from China are up 10 per cent on last year and spending has seen a 64 per cent increase.

With these encouraging figures in mind, VisitBritain has embarked on its Destination China tourism mission with trips to Hong Kong and Guangzhou, the largest city in South China. It takes with it representatives from over 50 British tourism businesses, attractions and organisations who will get the opportunity to meet Chinese travel buyers from 15 major cities across China.

All delegates are members of VisitBritain’s GREAT China Welcome Charter, launched in March, and are declared ‘China-ready’, having met criteria such as training staff in Chinese culture and etiquette, translating their websites and employing Mandarin speakers. The tourism body will also be marketing its new 250 page GREAT China Welcome Charter member directory which lists 200 British tourism providers that have committed to “providing exceptional service to Chinese travelers”.

VisitBritain launched a multi-million pound marketing campaign in early November aimed at introducing potential Chinese tourists to British visitor destinations and attractions that they may not already be familiar with. The campaign, which runs through until spring 2015, is aimed at making Britain a friendly and welcoming destination and to avoid “Paris syndrome” – an effect identified in a Bloomberg report this summer. It noted that although the French capital was still attracting more Chinese visitors than any other European city (around one million annually), figures were slowing due to concerns over the welcome they received. “Visitors have to contend with unfriendly locals and tourism professionals who aren’t always welcoming,” said president of the Chinese association of travel agencies in France, Jean-Francois Zhou.

The report explained the syndrome as one of reality falling short of romanticised expectations; “Chinese tourists arrive expecting to see a quaint, affluent and friendly European city with smartly dressed men and women smelling of Chanel No. 5. Instead they discover Paris’s grittier side – packed metros, rude waiters and pickpockets.”

“Chinese perceptions of Britain are better than ever and the demand for travel is clearly there,” said VisitBritain’s marketing director Joss Croft. “But we must continually develop our offer to remain ahead of the competition.” The aim is to treble visitor numbers from China by 2020.

Last month Chancellor George Osborne announced a financial incentive to offer visa refunds to Chinese tourists booking holidays to the UK. The incentive is being offered through 20 of China’s top tour operators. Earlier this year VisitBritain identified a need to make the visa application process more streamlined as its research showed that this was a barrier to the Chinese wanting to come to Britain for tourism purposes.

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