UK retailers benefit from strong tourist alliance with China

2017 saw record Chinese visitors issued visas for the UK with tax refund company Global Blue stating they accounted for 25 percent of all tax free shopping transactions in London's West End.

Chinese shoppers have become the world’s most important global spenders and London and the UK are magnets for retail sales to this consumer group across mainstream and luxury retail categories.

To put that into perspective, Chinese visitors account for over 40 percent of tax free shopping worldwide, approximately 184 billion pounds, with numbers expected to grow as the Chinese middle class surges and many are heading abroad for experiences.

According to Visit Britain Chinese visitors tend to be younger than the average visitor to the UK: over half of Chinese visitors were aged 16-34 years old in 2017.

Average spend for Chinese visitor is 1,688 pounds

Most Chinese visitors to Europe (93 percent) make the effort to go through the application only once, with the average visitor spending 1,688 pounds. France attracts eight times more Chinese visitors than the UK, with Visit Britain estimating the UK would earn an additional 1.2 billion pounds annually and create 24,000 jobs if more visas were issued.

According to City AM the UK China Visa Alliance is expanding its focus to offer the full UK experience for Chinese visitors. “Delivering a welcoming, hassle-free experience for visitors and tour operators will give us a critical competitive edge and keep us on the tourist map,” Jasmine Whitbread, the chief executive of London First, said. “We’ve made it simpler for Chinese visitors to come to the UK as part of a European trip — and our shops, theatres, hotels and restaurants are seeing the benefits.”

Luxury department stores are geared toward the Chinese experience

Retailers such as Harrods and Selfridges are geared toward the Chinese experience, including offering payment systems like Alipay, a common way to pay for goods in China.

UK China Visa Alliance (UKCVA) was launched by leading businesses, including members of the retail and tourism industry, aiming to address in a constructive way an issue which many believe is a significant barrier to attracting more Mainland Chinese visitors, the need to obtain an additional visa to include the UK on their European tour.

The Alliance is spearheaded by Walpole British Luxury, New West End Company and London First together with McArthurGlen Designer Outlets, Global Blue and a number of other stakeholders. It aims to help encourage inward visits from Chinese consumers - who have become a global force in terms of their retail and tourism spend domestically and internationally - while respecting the clear need for the UK to maintain a robust and effective border control policy.

The UKCVA strongly believes that the key to unlocking potential is to nd ways that would allow Chinese visitors to provide the necessary information to apply for both visas at the same time. Obtaining the two visas would be far less onerous for Chinese visitors and Britain’s border security would be maintained.

Photo and article credit: UK China Visa Alliance


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