What British commerce need to do to capitalize on Chinese Tourism

Global Blue’s latest study found that Chinese tourists spend more of their money in the U.K than anywhere else in the world, but chances are you were not aware that more than double of the amount of Chinese tourists stay the night in the North West of England when compared to London.

VisitBritain’s research shows us that London experiences 36% of the UK’s Chinese tourism yet even the English midlands surpasses the amount of nights stayed in London. Visitors from China spent over a million nights in the U.K in 2013. The sheer scale of the growing Chinese tourism industry indicates that whilst London is the epicenter of holiday expenditure, London’s hospitality industry is not doing enough to encourage Chinese tourists to stay the night in London as the Chinese are much more likely than other nationalities to visit parts of the U.K outside of the capital city. Considering the extent of London’s brand image appeal to the Chinese, who spend on average around £700 a day on holiday excluding accommodation, there are many parts of London that can deliver the traditional British capital hospitality they desire within their price range.

Whilst the Chinese tourism industry in the U.K can be looked at as a whole in statistical information, it is wise for British businesses seeking to maximise their revenue from this market to firstly separate the Chinese tourists in to three categories as follows: Holiday makers, visiting friends/relatives and Business travellers. Travelling over 6500 miles, Chinese tourists from these three demographics come to the U.K with very different agendas resulting in different expenditure patterns. To illustrate the importance of market segmentation when targeting the Chinese tourism industry I will explain some of the emerging differences in consuming British goods and services while visiting the United Kingdom. Chinese tourists visiting friends or relatives are much more likely than other nationalities to engage in local social community events and attend traditional English pubs, whilst the other two segments show the exact opposite. All three of these market segments expressed in VisitBritain’s study a larger interest than other foreign national tourists in being in touch with nature by going on walks, cycling and walking on the beach. This is significantly different to nationals from U.A.E, who like Chinese tourists come to the U.K expecting to do large scale retail shopping, yet show lack of interest in visiting the U.K’s nature.

Business travellers from China dine at restaurants significantly more than those on business from other foreign nationalities, whereas Chinese holiday makers show a trend of significantly avoiding restaurants. The lack of appeal in eating at restaurants for Chinese holiday makers is not just a British tourism problem. Whilst the more coastal cities of China are seeing their diets increasingly westernised, there is still a significant culture shock from the change in diet when abroad. The traditional Chinese diet is very different to what is put on the plate in Western societies.

International Business Times reported in March 2015 that the Chinese population consumes 42.5billion packages of instant noodles per year. This is so staple to their diet that airports and trains often accommodate by supplying hot water fountains for travellers in need of a meal on the go. There was an uproar on Chinese social media when a hotel in the Maldives denied Chinese tourists kettles in their rooms. An attempt by the hotel to encourage restaurant attendance resulted in almost 100,000 posts on social media calling for Chinese tourists to boycott the Maldives. Using this example as a basis of “what not to do” in terms of encouraging the Chinese to eat out at a restaurant,   it is clear that to increase the appeal of western cuisine companies must strategically manage their menus and restaurant ambience to cater for such a different culture if they wish to reap the financial reward of the vast Chinese tourism market.

GMI brand index asked respondents to rate the importance of certain issues to their survey when travelling. Language was highlighted as a significant issue, with many respondents stating the lack of Mandarin written information for visitors in London. Whilst the figure that China has 300 million English speakers is often cited, the vast majority of these are not fluent and still study the English language. Many Chinese tourists still highlight the issue of a lack of any Mandarin speaking employees in the U.K when staying at a hotel or receiving service from a business. Whilst the vast majority of Chinese tourists will be able to cope in the U.K well on their current English skills, GMI brand index found that respondents highly desired more mandarin speaking services on their travels. This is an area that the U.K is significantly lacking in within the service industry. Some U.K companies have been quicker to act than others, such as Corinthia hotel and Transport for London which offers on the job training for employees to become bi-lingual with Mandarin to handle customers.

What British companies must do in order to maximise the appeal of Chinese tourists to their products and services is to strategically and tactically adapt with the assistance of professional and experienced in the field personnel. The culture clash with some of the methods western corporations have utilised for decades to target Western consumers before the emergence of the modern Chinese tourist need to be addressed and reconsidered in order to maximise their revenue from the golden opportunities that the growing Chinese tourism industry brings to the United Kingdom.


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