Chinese visitor numbers reach record highs | UKCVA briefing

In 2012, when the UK China Visitor alliance was founded by Walpole, the New West End Company, London First, Global Blue and McArthurGlen to work with the government to grow significantly Chinese visitors, the UK issued just 210,958 visitor visas in China. 2017 figures released by the Home Office this month show that figure has risen to 531,967, a 152% increase since 2012. 

Figures released today by Global Blue show that spending on shopping by Chinese visitors in the UK grew by 32% in 2017, building on a 26% rise in 2016. This compares with just 5% growth in the Eurozone in 2017 and a 21% fall in 2016. Other statistics include:

2017 Chinese visitor numbers to UK reach record highs, breaking the half million mark.

New Global Blue figures show annual Chinese visitor spend on shopping in UK rose by 32% in 2017.

UK outperforms Schengen in the increase in visitor visas issued for the first time.

UKCVA and VisitBritain announces formation of new Chinese Visitor Working Group to build on success and drive Chinese visitor numbers to new heights.

2017 visitor visa figures show that Chinese visitors to the UK have soared by 0ver 150% in the five years since 2012. 

The latest UK China Visa Alliance briefing took place on Wednesday 14th March at the Hippodrome in Leicester Square, where over 100 business leaders from across the UK gathered to hear Brian Bickell, Chairman of the UKCVA announce the launch of the new Chinese Visitor Working Group in partnership with VisitBritain. This Working Group will explore a wide range of practical initiatives to attract even more Chinese visitors to the UK, examining new ways to increase demand to visit the UK, as well as making it easier to visit through better connectivity and continuation of measures that have already streamlined the visa application process.

The meeting also heard from Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who is responsible for tourism, along with Minister Zhu Qui of the Chinese Embassy, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, Chairman of the Conservative Friends of the Chinese and Jacques Stern, Chief Executive of Global Blue, the world’s leading tax free shopping refund operator.

The UKCVA has worked with government to look at practical ways to streamline the application process in China for both a UK and Schengen visa so that they can more easily include the UK on multi-country tours of Europe. This has led to:

· The UK accepting Schengen application forms to apply for a UK visa, so halving the paperwork

· A Visa Application Centre sharing pilot with Belgium so that Chinese visitors can apply for both visas at the same time and place

· The introduction of a 2 year multi-entry visa as standard (replacing the standard 6 month visa) as a pilot

· A commitment to introducing a 10 year visa as standard

For the first time, in 2016, the UK outperformed Schengen in terms of the annual increase in visas issued in China (+20% for the UK, -12% for Schengen) while overtaking Germany and Italy and drawing close to France in the number of visitor visas issued. The introduction by Schengen of biometric visas, similar to the UK, has created opportunities to build on these initiatives and successes.

Power of the Chinese Spend
The Chinese are the world’s highest spending tourists, with an expenditure of $261.1bn worldwide in 2016.

Global Blue figures show that Chinese shoppers have been driving Tax Free Shopping globally, growing from 21% of global tax free shopping spend in 2010 to 43% in 2017. Global Blue predict continued strong growth in Chinese visitor numbers as its middle class grows.

Research by New West End Company, based on Global Blue figures show, that in 2016 the Chinese were the biggest spenders in London’s West End, accounting for 25% of all tax-free shopping. Visitors from Saudi Arabia, the next highest spenders, account for 7% of sales the next highest spenders.

At a time when international tourism is growing in importance to the UK economy as Britain prepares to leaves the EU, it is vital that Government and business continue to work together to attract even more Chinese visitors.

For more information, please contact charlotte.keesing@thewalpole.co.uk.