Where will tomorrow’s tourists come from?

We are told that Britain will not see a healthy thriving economy for at least 10 years so where is Visit Britain looking for future growth markets? The BRIC markets, namely Brazil, Russia, India and China are seen as providing potential for medium to long term growth. Let us look briefly at the Chinese market and what it could mean for UK tourism operators.

Richard Ball from the splendid Calcot Manor, a country house hotel and spa in the Cotswolds described, in Caterer and Hotelkeeper, how he had been on a sales mission to China for the first time and realised that his proximity to honeypot heritage destinations such as London, Oxford and Bath and shopping destinations such as Bicester Shopping Village, threw up marketing opportunities to sell to the sophisticated Chinese traveller, who has been to the UK several times before.

Hong Kong has fewer cultural differences with Britain compared with the rest of China. But do we need to provide a ‘Chinese welcome’ for new visitors?

Certainly when I worked at the Bath Spa Hotel we developed our Japanese market with a corporate sales office based in Tokyo. At the hotel we appointed a part time Japanese sales assistant, introduced Japanese language training and introduced a ‘welcome pack’ for Japanese groups. Do we need to work harder to understand the needs of the Chinese market if our business has the potential to attract the market? Hotel groups such as Hilton believe so.

In addition to sales missions and increased marketing activity in China by Visit Britain, we are also exporting a new type of culture to China – live musical theatre. So far Mamma Mia sung in Mandarin has toured 21 Chinese cities to ecstatic crowds. And Cats too has been a hit. Interestingly the Chinese government is now spending funds building theatres, opera houses, cinemas, museums and arts centres across the country, opening up new opportunities for the British to export culture and encourage new interest in Britain.

PS Chinese outbound tourism is growing at an incredible rate with the World Tourism Organisation predicting that, by 2020,
there will be 100m Chinese outbound tourists. However, the UK currently receives just 0.2% of the Chinese market and has been losing market share to other European destinations. Hence reason for new strategies in place to increase volume of visitors from China.

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