Why is the UK so attractive to Chinese tourists?

The Chinese overseas tourist market is huge. The BBC reported that the Chinese have become the single greatest source of global tourism income after spending $102bn (£67bn; 79bn euros) while travelling abroad in 2012.

At the start of 2015, there were over 100 million outbound Chinese tourists. These developments represent a significant opportunity for the UK’s tourism industry to capitalize upon this.

The staggering growth of tourist expenditure from China reflects the entry into the tourism market of an expanding middle class with higher disposable incomes and a desire for international experiences, products, and goods. This will surely alter the landscape of global tourism.

This is becoming (arguably) the key tourist market for the UK with pressure being put on the Government to make it easier for Chinese citizens traveling to Europe to obtain a British visaBusiness leaders have warned that many Chinese may still be opting not to visit UK shops due to the complexity of obtaining British holiday visas, reports Oliver Duggan, in the telegraph. To attract the maximum number of Chinese visitors the UK will need to simplify and increase the ease of this visa process.

Understanding what attracts the Chinese visitor to the UK

Knowing why the Chinese are attracted to the UK and what experiences they are looking for is the first step. The UK will then understand how to tailor and adapt how it markets itself to cater to the demands of the Chinese visitor. Knowledge of Chinese consumers and the market has therefore become a necessity.

Chinese tourists associate the UK with a sense of class and sophistication, the nation (to them) connotes luxury, wealth, and prestige.

baidu picture
These are the top search results for UK travel agencies in China on Baidu (the leading Chinese search engine).
Here you can see ‘glamorous travel’ are the top result. The emphasis is on glamour, this increasingly affluent Chinese visitor wants to experience something high class and special in the UK. The picture is of the family reflecting the importance of meeting the needs of whole Chinese families with discounts, packages and ‘family friendly’ options provided.
There is the iconic image of the ‘London Eye’ lit up in purple, it depicts this image of London as a high class, luxurious destination.
The Chinese focus when considering the UK has always been on London. The capital serves as a base for Chinese tourists whom are travelling further afield.
weibo london
Here you can see the type of posts on Great Britain’s Weibo feed (the Chinese answer to twitter). The images area all of London with certain landmarks in the capital such as ‘Covent Garden’, ‘London Bridge’ and ‘Charing Cross’ being emphasized.
London is also repeated emphasized as a glamorous ‘wedding destination’ in China. The Chinese before they get married will often want an extensive, high quality series of photographs taken of the couple. The images may be used for wedding invitations or framed as gifts.
Here is another example from Weibo of a glamorous wedding image being circulated, it features London’s ‘Regent Street’. London as a tourist destination is associated in this case with romance and marriage.
Here are just a few examples of how the Chinese view the UK. The Chinese are often less concerned with the history and more attracted by the upmarket, modern and cosmopolitan image which is circulated on Chinese social networks. This is largely how the UK, with a focus on London, is portrayed.  Understanding this appeal as a foreign destination from the Chinese tourist’s perspective is of paramount importance.

Have a high profile, official website in Chinese

There is currently no official British tourism website translated into Mandarin Chinese. This type of official, established presence is important. The campaign run on the English website is ‘Great Britain, You’re Invited’. This official slogan and campaign have not gained traction in China.

baidu top hits no offical web

These are the top search results on Baidu for ‘British tourism’. The top results are travel agencies ‘Omega Travel’ and ‘I trip’. It appears UK tourism currently has no official Chinese website.

An official website should be adapted for the Chinese market with research into what the Chinese traveler desires (see above) incorporated into the design and content.  The website will then need to be optimized (SEO) so that when relevant keywords are entered into the search engine it will be a top result.

The rising appeal of football and the UK ‘Premier League in China

Football has become very popular in China with many fans supporting Premier League teams as well as their local Chinese team. The Premier League has strong links in China and has even ‘vowed to help improve the professional game in the country through a formal partnership with the Chinese Super League (CSL)’. In return, the CSL will provide assistance to the Premier League and its clubs with regard to promotion and marketing in China, as well as staging matches and other business initiatives.

This cooperation presents a key opportunity for the UK to market itself as a ‘footballing nation’. Stadium tours and football match packages are already popular attractions but could be intelligently marketed to the Chinese tourist as a significant ‘British’ attraction in conjunction with the rising popularity of the Premier League.

This image is prominently displayed as part of a slide show on ‘Visit Britain’s’ Weibo page.


Have a strong, presence on social networks

Social networks allow you to access and engage with potential Chinese tourists, to monitor what they are posting and sharing about the UK. This aids in helping you tailor the advertising campaign to the Chinese market.

It is also a tool whereby you can connect directly with the consumer, disseminating official content and offers/promotions concerning holidaying in the UK. Featuring visitors’ pictures and comments is also effective. Interesting articles and content about the UK should be produced and shared to stimulate interest.

Having a strong presence on social networks increases the chances of UK tourism-friendly content being shared amongst users’ social networks. The Chinese trust their immediate friendship circle and family and are very influenced by others’ experiences and opinions, what people are sharing on their social network is of vital importance to the success of British tourism becoming evermore popular in China.

The ‘Visit Britain’ official UK tourism campaign is on ‘Weibo’ (China’s answer to Twitter). It is the most open and effective social network for marketers in China. Click here to see the UK’s Weibo page (more on social medi for tourism)

britian official weibo

The main image is a striking one of the Clifton suspension bridge in Bristol. It shows the UK to be green, lush, and eclectic with a host of hot air balloons in the background. Aside from this, all the other images featured on Weibo are unsurprising of London, the epicenter of Chinese tourism in the UK.

The UK tourist body must monitor its e-reputation

With the growth of the digital market in China has come to an explosion of user reviews, often more detailed and strongly valued than reviews found in the west. This is a rich source of user-generated content. The Chinese largely look to reviews and are especially influenced by the views and opinions of those within their social circle. Managing e-reputation (what the public is saying about tourism in the UK) is therefore key. Either positive or negative content can spread extremely quickly.

It is vital to manage the e-reputation of the UK and promote positive content which is adapted for the Chinese visitor online and within social networks.

Establish partnerships with local Chinese travel agencies who organize ‘group travel’

Partnering with local, Chinese agencies who specialize in this market and have established connections is key. The vast majority of tourists will make bookings through these agencies online, therefore the online campaign has to be effective, coherent, and far-reaching.

Agencies take care of Chinese tourists and often organize ‘group’ travel. For the UK this is beneficial as it is likely to increase the number of people traveling. According to the latest report by the national tourism agency in China, 70% of Chinese people travel through agency-organized groups. There are a number of reasons for this.

-Language barrier: many Chinese citizens do not speak English so they need a guide.

-Visa difficulties: agencies take care of everything and make it easier to obtain a VISA, this can often be a hassle for Chinese travelers due to the currently complicated process.

-Fear of adventure: most Chinese people have never traveled abroad until the recent decade, so they are less eager to explore alone. They turn to experienced travel agencies and find traveling as a group more comfortable.

– The Chinese live in a more collective, communist society where people are used to doing things in groups.

-Price benefits: traveling with a travel agency is much cheaper than traveling in a single or small group, in a price-sensitive society like China this is one of the driving factors encouraging group travel.

Agencies can be generally hard to find, they have specific requirements and may already be working with contractors for many years. Having a strong digital media marketing campaign is important to enhance your reputation amongst agencies, a local partnership will be key.

Utilize key opinion leaders

These are the influential opinion leaders who shape views and opinions because people see them as experts on particular subjects. These types of celebrities or online personalities are especially popular in China. They have successfully gathered large communities of people around them. Different demographics can be targeted on social media via these key opinion leaders.

The benefit of this trend is that a ‘KOL’ can be recruited by UK tourism companies and become instrumental in spreading a positive message about Britain as a holiday destination. In this way, you can benefit from KOL’s large online community and reach thousands or even millions of potential holidaymakers in one go.

The digital solution is extremely effective in China, even more so than in western countries.

An in-depth understanding of the Chinese tourist and how the local market operates is vital for promoting the UK as a top holiday destination in China. There is an opportunity to capitalize on the positive perception many Chinese visitors have of the country with a particular focus on London.

Due to tourists predominantly searching for information and booking holidays online, one must understand the digital market and have close connections in China that enable the implementation of a marketing strategy. We are a highly reputable digital agency with a unique and specialist understanding of what the Chinese tourist is looking for, we specialize in implementing an effective strategy in this complex market.

If you have a project in mind feel free to contact us.

For more advice on attracting Chinese tourists click here.

For further information about our agency see our website.


  • marcelo

    It’s fantastic Marketing to China, that you are getting ideas from this article as well as from our
    argument made here, in the UK

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  • Nigel Aplin

    Do you launch websites into China on behalf of UK clients ?

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