The UK needs to do a lot more to attract a bigger share of the fast-growing and lucrative inbound Chinese tourism market to Europe, according to a new report.
Of an estimated three million Chinese visitors to Europe in 2010, only around 127,000 came to the UK. With numbers predicted to rise to 240,000 by 2014, the UK is lagging behind Italy, France and Germany, which are currently attracting between 500,000 and 700,000 travellers from China each per year.
How the Rise in Chinese Tourism will Change the Face of the European Travel Industry is a new report from the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and commissioned by Hilton Hotels & Resorts, which has identified several reasons why the Chinese do not visit the UK as frequently as they do other European countries.
It includes the fact that the UK is not part of the Schengen agreement, which makes it more difficult for the Chinese to obtain visas for the UK than for Italy, France and Germany. The UK, apart from Harrods and Selfridges, has also not embraced payments from China Union Pay.
Sandie Dawes, chief executive of VisitBritain, said that while Chinese visitor numbers to the UK have been steadily rising in recent years, the country can do more to attract a higher number.
"China has a rich cultural heritage of its own and according to the latest Nations Brand index, now has a far better understanding of British culture, our people and what travellers can experience when they are here," she said. "We must build on this and ensure the industry develops products that meet the needs, tastes and desires of Chinese travellers.
"If we could increase the appeal of Britain - in line with where our European competitors are right now - this would help generate nearly £1b from Chinese visitors every year."
The Chinese spend an average of £202 per night and can spend more than £600 in one shopping trip, which is on average more than Russian, Arab or Japanese travellers.
The report outlines several ways the UK hotel industry could help attract Chinese travellers, including offering tailored services such as translating websites and signage into Chinese, employing fluent Mandarin speakers to interact with guests, and embracing social media and marketing strategies that attract the Chinese.
Earlier this year, Hilton introduced Hilton Huanying, a programme that takes its name from the Chinese word for welcome. Any hotels within Hilton Worldwide's 10 brands can participate by having front desk staff fluent in Mandarin, traditional Chinese breakfast items, a welcome letter in Chinese, a selection of Chinese teas, slippers and Chinese television programming.
Dave Horton, global head of Hilton Hotels & Resorts, said the report highlights a number of things the industry can do immediately as well as some areas the Government needs to start examining.
"If our industry is serious about gaining a 5% growth in the UK then we have to start taking action now," he said.
For a full version of the report, go to www.hiltonglobalmediacenter.com
By Janet Harmer
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