Reaching the Chinese market. Can UK attractions inspire more visits?

20/08/2019 By Nathaly Kambakara

While VisitBritain’s most recent data shows a decline in visits to the UK by overseas holiday makers, one of the markets that has contributed the most to the UK’s inbound tourism is the Chinese market. This market has grown year-on-year with Chinese visitors increasing by 16% between 2016 and 2017.

Profile information

  • They are younger than the average overseas visitor to the UK with about half of Chinese visitors aged 16-34 in 2018.
  • They are most likely to be first-time visitors.
  • They prefer to travel alone, in a couple or with friends rather than in tour groups (as extensively seen in the past), making them more independent travellers when it comes to their travel arrangements, i.e. accommodation, places to visit and secondary spend.

Current interests

Shopping is undoubtedly one of the main activities that this market enjoys, with visitors predominately spending their money on luxury goods. However, there has recently been a shift in what this market spends on. They are now more focused on products that are unique, locally-sourced and tell a good story. Other activities they are interested in are dining in local restaurants and visiting parks/gardens, which surprisingly, are top of the list compared to shopping.

Chinese visitors tend to associate Britain with ‘museums’, and their motivations to visit the UK include:  ‘enjoying the beauty of the landscape’, ‘having fun and laughter’ and ‘feeling connected to nature’. There is clearly great potential to attract this high-spending market towards visitor attractions and museums across the UK.

How to reach the Chinese market

1) Mobile payments

Chinese people are highly unlikely to use cash for their payments, preferring mobile payments instead. WeChat and Alipay are currently the most used payment apps for their shopping. All you need to do is  create your own QR code which makes the purchasing experience quicker and easier, to ultimately drive further expenditure. The WeChat payment method has been adopted by many retail outlets across Italy and the Oxfordshire-based outlet, Bicester Village. Not surprisingly, Bicester Village is the second most popular destination for Chinese people after Buckingham Palace!

2) Chinese language

It is important to help Chinese travellers make the most of their visit and feel ‘at ease’. This also involves making sure there are Mandarin-speaking staff members, signage or even a website translated in Mandarin. Again, this was implemented at Bicester Village and on all Chiltern Railways trains heading to this destination.

Social media and Word-of-Mouth: How travellers perceive your brand is crucial in driving engagement and prompt visits. This is something to consider when trying to target Chinese travellers, as the majority will book their trip online and also look for where to go and what to do on the web. Therefore, if you want to make yourself aware to this market it is key to be present on social media platforms such as WeChat and Weibo, but also, it’s important to promote word-of-mouth among existing customers.

3) Cultural differences

Communication is key and it doesn’t come without embracing cultural differences. First, understanding what Chinese visitors may like to read (when it comes to website content) or see/experience at a museum or visitor attraction.

The UK Immigration Board now allows Chinese visitors to automatically upgrade from a 6-month visa to a 2-year multi-entry one. It is now likely that first-time Chinese visitors might turn into repeat visitors so it’s crucial that visitor attractions, museums and businesses focus on how to cater for the needs of this fast-growing market.


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