Chinese Visitor Working Group
Proposal by the UK China Visitor Alliance
1.1 Since 2013 UKCVA, an alliance of businesses and business organisations, has been working in partnership with government and other private sector organisations to devise and implement practical measures to increase the number of Chinese visitors to the UK.
1.2 Encouraged by the success of these initiatives, demonstrated by the significant growth in Chinese visitor numbers, UKCVA, VisitBritian and the Home Office have agreed to establish a China Visitor Working Group.
1.3 The Group will monitor Chinese visitor numbers and examine new practical initiatives to increase demand to visit the UK (in particular, enhancing the product and promoting it) and reduce any barriers that may prevent those visits taking place (in particular, those that make travel to the UK more difficult).
2.1 The importance of Chinese visitors to the UK economy
2.1.1 The Chinese are the world’s highest spending tourists, with expenditure of $261.1bn worldwide in 2016.
2.1.3 The Office for National Statistics’ International Passenger Survey 2016 estimates that the total average spend per trip by Chinese tourists is £1,972. This ranks it sixth, behind the five top Middle Eastern states. In comparison, average total spend by visitors from the USA is £971 (49% of the average Chinese spend) and French and German average visitor spend is £338 and £446 respectively.
2.1.4 Unlike the established markets of the USA, Middle East and Europe, China has a huge potential for growth. With a population of 1.4 billion, an average economic growth rate of 9% over the past decade (6.7% in 2016), and only 57 million (4%) currently making outbound trips (excluding Hong Kong and Macao) the potential for growth (both in numbers and value) is significant.
2.1.5 This growth potential is shown by the annual average growth in total spending each year from 2006 to 2016. China is the highest, with an average 17% annual growth in spending compared with an average annual growth of just 1% by US visitors and 3% by French and German visitors.
2.2 Tourism policy
2.2.1 The establishment of a China Working Group to examine demand and supply side issues reflect current Government policy, as these excepts demonstrate.
2.2.2 The Government’s Tourism Action Plan highlights –
2.2.3 VisitBritain’s long-term tourism growth strategy –
2.2.4 At the end of 2017 the Tourism Industry Council’s Tourism Sector Deal was submitted as a bid in response to the Government’s Industrial Strategy. One of the four priorities in the deal is “improving connections” (pp35-39). This priority includes proposals to –
2.3 Other factors
2.3.1 There are a number of other factors that support the need for a working group to focus on enhancing Chinese visitor numbers.
2.3.2 Brexit – the fall in the value of the pound following the June 2016 vote to leave the EU has resulted in a significant growth in spending by international visitors. There is a clear “Brexit bonus” potential which the UK needs to exploit to support the growth of the UK economy during uncertain times.
2.3.3 Brexit negotiations – discussions about the future relationship between the UK and EU member states dominates policy making and may affect the ability to negotiate on issues such as international cooperation on Chinese visitor initiatives. The negotiations also raise issues concerning borders, some good, some bad. The concept of an open border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic may provide opportunities for agreements on visitors crossing boarders more easily.
2.3.4 Schengen biometric visas – following the introduction of biometric visas in the Schengen area in late 2016 the area has seen a fall in Chinese visitor numbers. This provides a challenge to the UK as the European region becomes slightly less attractive to Chinese visitors and this may impact on UK visitor numbers. But it also offers opportunities as the Schengen system becomes more aligned to the UK biometric system and countries suffering falls in visitor numbers may be more open to partnership initiatives.
2.3.5 Schengen migration issues – concerns over migration has called into question the principle of free movement within the Schengen area. Six Schengen members have closed their borders. This may diminish somewhat the appeal of Europe as a holiday destination
2.3.6 Terrorist activity – we need to strengthen the UK appeal at a time when terrorist attacks in London and other major European Cities may deter some visitors from visiting Europe.
2.4.1 The Government and private sector have been working in partnership to increase Chinese tourist numbers through measures such as enhanced marketing programmes, improvements to the visas application system and increased airline capacity. This constructive partnership has delivered strong positive growth in Chinese visitor numbers.
2.4.3 The figures for visitor visas issued in China by the UK, France, Italy, Germany and the Schengen Area are attached as appendix A. These show that the big improvement in numbers issued by the UK came in in 2016 when many of the new initiatives started to take effect. In 2016 the UK, for the first time, outperformed Schengen and these three major countries in terms of percentage increases. The UK increased visitor visas issued in China by 20% while throughout the Schengen areas numbers issued fell by 12%. The UK also overtook both Italy and Germany in the number issued and closed the gap between it and France, the leading European country.
2.4.4 This was a very positive result and was most likely due to a combination of the positive impact of measures introduced by the UK starting to show results and the negative impact of Schengen introducing biometrics.
2.4.5 The Brexit vote in June 2016 may also have had a positive impact on Chinese visitor numbers but Appendix A also shows that this positive performance by the UK was occurring before the vote at the end of June (i.e. in Q1 and Q2).
3.1 Government and business are keen to build on these successes to increase further the number of Chinese tourists. VisitBritain, the Home Office and UK China Visa Alliance have agreed to establish a Chinese Visitor Working Group to explore practical initiatives to enhance demand and reduce barriers to entry.
3.2 The objective of the Working Group is to propose and deliver practical initiatives to increase significantly the number of Chinese visitors to the UK by increasing demand and reducing barriers.
Possible areas of activity
3.3 In broad terms the key areas to examine appear to as shown below, although the Working Group may decide to amend these.
Working Group Composition
3.4 This section is an initial proposal for membership, based upon the suggested areas to examine. The Working Group may decide at its first meeting to amend the areas. It may also decide to add new members as appropriate.
|DEMAND SIDE ISSUES||SUPPLY SIDE ISSUES|
|· Tourism Alliance
· New West End Company (as UKCVA)
· Heathrow Airport
· Border Force
|· Home Office UKVI
|· DCMS – Head of Tourism
Working Group operation
3.5 The Working Group should meet regularly (initially monthly) to agree priorities, determine activities and monitor progress.
4.1 The working Group should meet to discuss this paper, agree areas of activity and membership.
 VisitBritain, Markets – China https://www.visitbritain.org/markets/china
 New West End Company is the Business Improvement District representing 600 retailers, hoteliers and property owners in the core shopping area of London’s West End – based around Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street. Over 60% of all international tourist spending in the UK takes place in the BID area
 Global Blue is the worldwide leader in tax free shopping, managing around 70% of all tax-free shopping refunds in the UK
 Saudi Arabia (£2,370), Bahrain (£2,354), Egypt (£2,144), Qatar (£1,993) and Kuwait (£1,984)
 VisitBritain, Markets – China https://www.visitbritain.org/markets/china
 Office for National Statistics International Passenger Survey 2016
 Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport – “Tourism Action Plan – One Year On” October 2017
 VisitBritain – “Delivering a Golden Legacy – A growth Strategy for Inbound Tourism in Britain from 2013-2020”
 The Tourism Council “Tourism Sector Deal Informing the Long-Term Tourism Strategy for Britain” September 2017
 See Appendix A
 Home Office Statistics – visitor visas issues quarterly
 Note – UKCVA uses the number of visitor visas issued as a way of comparing the performance of the UK in attracting Chinese visitors with that of other EU states. This is because visitor numbers are estimated in different ways by different countries which makes direct performance comparison difficult. We believe that the actual number of visitor visas issued is a more accurate way of comparing performance. The discrepancy between the IPS estimates for Chinese visitor numbers and the Home Office figures on the number of visitor visas issued indicates that the IPS underestimates Chinese visitor numbers.
Annual Visitor Visa Comparisons
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