+40% of Chinese tourists going to the UK

General overview of the UK tourism Market

chinesetoursituk source alamy

Source: Telegraph.co.uk // Alamy

With over 120 million Chinese tourists travelling abroad, attracting Chinese tourists has been the perfect “hobby” for overseas tourism players.

According to VisitBritain, the tourism organisation of the UK, the volume of Chinese tourists visiting the country jumped by almost 40% during the first nine months of 2015 and reached a number of 200,000 for the whole year (2015).  Chinese travellers spent a total of £435 million last year which is a 4% growth compared to the previous year. Actually, China account for one-fourth of total tourist spending in the UK!

China is the first outbound market in the world with more than 120 million Chinese people travelling overseas last year, needless to say, any country willing to put in the effort to grow its tourism market would want to attract Chinese tourists.

VisitBritain expects Chinese tourists spending in the UK to double by 2020 to attain £1billion which would mean approximatively £2,600 per Chinese visitor.

Even though there is a rise of interest in the UK among Chinese visitors, it wasn’t due to pure luck. The fact that the UK is not part of the One-Visa policy (Schengen Zone) means that Chinese visitors have to pay for an extra visa. Also, the pound sterling is quite high compared to RMB and even the EUR which resulted in decreased demand for luxury products in the UK and a rise in “mainland” Europe said UK Burberry representative during an interview.

How did they achieve that growth even though there were so many roadblocks? Well, I won’t make you wait, let’s dive right in …


UK’s strategy to attract Chinese tourists


The first roadblock in the Chinese tourist journey to go to the UK for some holidays is the visa issue. In order to counteract this “deal breaker”, the UK government created a new type of visa earlier this year to allow its visa holders to enjoy multiple entries in the UK. The price is the same as the 6-month visa and cost £87.


VisitBritain Digital Marketing Strategy


source: songdivision.com


According to Patricia Yates, VisitBritain Director, “Every 22 additional Chinese visitors we attract supports an additional job in tourism. “ Attracting Chinese tourists is not only a fact of increasing tourists expenditures but also to stimulate to the domestic job market.

But as Patria Yates said: “Digital engagement is one of our strengths and this campaign has been hugely effective at driving this with our potential Chinese visitors.”


China is an extra-connected country with over 660 million internet users. It is estimated that about 90% of Chinese netizens owns at least one social media account. The main Chinese social media are WeChat and Weibo. WeChat is a Chinese instant messaging app developed by Tencent, one of China’s web giants. It has more than 690 million active users worldwide and most of them are Chinese. As for WeiBo, it has a platform similar to Twitter and offers a microblogging service. It is mostly used on the computer instead of mobile devices contrary to WeChat.

You can see below VisitBritain’s (英国旅游局 – ying guo lu you ju in Chinese) Weibo verified account page. They have over 620,000 followers (粉丝 – fen si in Chinese).


UK strategy to attract Chinese tourists via digital media actively started in 2014-2015, when they saw a slight rise in Chinese tourists arrivals. One of the innovative ideas of VisitBritain was the  “GREAT names for GREAT Britain” campaign which took place in 2014 and early 2015. What was the campaign about? It was specially dedicated to Chinese tourists.

The principle was to ask Chinese people (not necessarily tourists yet) to find Chinese (mandarin) names for more than 101 places or attractions across the UK. The 101 places were broke down in 10 pieces. Across 10 weeks, every week 10 locations/attractions were published on Weibo and WeChat asking a Chinese name for each of them. The final list of Chinese “translated” tourist attractions in the UK was released last year in March.

Here are a few examples:  

Big Ben – Da Ben Zhong

Tom Hiddleston – Dou Sen

Benedict Cumberbatch – Curly Fu

Cambridge – Jian Qiao (Sword Bridge)


Further reading:

How to market Airlines for China : the case of KLM’s WeChat

2.1 million Chinese tourists are travelling to Indonesia

UK so attractive for Chinese tourists

Want to attract Chinese tourists target communities? 


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