Bath (UK) looks to China for tourism boost

Chinese tourists in BathA relaxation of visa applications for Chinese tourists could be about to give tourism in Bath a boost.
Bath, and the city’s famous Roman Baths in particular, is one of the most popular attractions for Chinese tourists in Britain, according to Visit Britain. Last year the Roman Baths attracted 71,000 Mandarin-speaking visitors.
That now looks set to increase as, from the autumn, Chinese visitors to the UK and Ireland will be able to use a single visitor visa without requiring a separate visa to travel to each of these two countries.
According to new research from Barclays, working in partnership with Visit Britain, the South West is the preferred destination for Chinese tourists.
Between 2014 and 2017, the biggest growth will be in spending by visitors from China, the United Arab Emirates and Russia, according to the research. It predicts Chinese spend will increase by 84 per cent from 2013 levels, reaching £1bn per annum in 2017 in a total market of £27bn, and that Chinese spending could reach £1bn per annum by 2017, making up almost four per cent of the total market.
Paul Crossley, leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “It is obvious that Chinese tourists are going to become even more important to Bath. We must make sure we work together with local tourism businesses to encourage this and to make sure that we cater properly for this market.
“The council-run museums are leading the way in this and we hope that this will help to make it easy for other tourism organisations to provide Chinese-friendly services for visitors.”
To coincide with the visa announcement Bath is launching a campaign to welcome more Chinese visitors.
Bath Tourism Plus has launched the Bath China Welcome programme with the help of the University of Bath. The purpose of the campaign is to give businesses the support they need to help attract the Chinese market.
Chief executive Nick Brooks-Sykes, said: “Our aim is to make Bath the most China friendly destination in England. We are calling all businesses to join our initiative, encourage tourism businesses as well as retailers who want to grow this lucrative market to get involved and contact Bath Tourism Plus.
“This new campaign will help further grow the industry’s current £375-million visitor economy with the launch of a Mandarin website, social media campaign and programme of travel trade and press activity.”
The group is co-ordinating business support activities such as briefings to understand market trends, culture and etiquette as well as Mandarin.
China is now the world’s largest outbound tourism market and the latest data for 2013 shows that the number of visitors to Britain from China grew by ten per cent to hit 200,000 for the first time. For details visit .
Nick Brooks-Sykes, chief executive of Bath Tourism Plus, and Bath MP Don Foster, with Chinese students from the University of Bath.

Source: The Bath Chronicle

Harrods boss criticises Chinese visa proposals

Chinese tourists Harrod's - China Elite FocusThe boss of Harrods, the prestigious London department store, has warned that proposals by the Coalition to simplify visa applications for Chinese tourists are “smoke and mirrors”.
UK retailers have pressed the Government to overhaul the Chinese visa system because of concerns that the UK is missing out on spending to other European countries.
However, Michael Ward, the managing director of Harrods, said that measures unveiled by George Osborne, the Chancellor, during a trade mission to Beijing are likely to have little impact.
Speaking at a breakfast for the chief executives of luxury brands organised by trade body Walpole, Mr Ward said the Chancellor’s proposals were “smoke and mirrors” and would not help wealthy tourists travelling independently.
Business leaders have warned that the UK is losing £1.2bn of sales each year because Chinese visitors are put off by the complex visa process. Tourists travelling to Europe from China must apply for a separate UK visa alongside the Schengen visa system, which is cheaper and allows Chinese tourists to visit more than 25 other countries in the EU including France.
In October, Mr Osborne introduced a new pilot scheme that will allow tourists to secure a UK visa by only submitting the EU’s Schengen visa.
However, the scheme only applies to selected Chinese travel agents and Mr Ward said the proposal will “do nothing” because the government in China is clamping down on tour groups.
As part of a corruption crackdown, Chinese authorities have passed a law restricting tour groups because of concerns that the tour guides were taking bribes to take visitors to certain places.
Mr Ward said that regulations should boost the UK, but that it means the visa proposals will have minimal impact.
The Harrods boss said that most of the company’s Chinese shoppers were young consumers travelling independently of tour groups. “The Chinese consumers are very young, aged 20 to 25,” he added.
Giles English, the co-founder of watchmaker Bremont, also called for the Government to streamline the visa process for Chinese visitors.
“Anything that makes it easier is only going to help us all,” Mr English said.
The UK China Visa Alliance, which has led calls for the system to be reformed, has calculated that only 6pc of Chinese visitors to Europe obtain two visas, while 85pc obtain only a Schengen visa and just 9pc get a UK visa.
Source: The Telegraph, article by Graham Ruddick

Luxury brand boom anticipated as wealthy Chinese tourists head to UK for Chinese New Year

Luxury stores are preparing for thousands of wealthy Far Eastern shoppers to coincide with the start of the Chinese Year of the Dragon.
The easing of travel restrictions in China means the turn of the year has become a time for international travel and shopping for the country’s elite.
They will be looking for British brands such as Burberry and Mulberry, and international brands such as Prada and Gucci.
Spending by Chinese tourists in UK stores rose by 64 per cent last year, say retail analysts Global Blue, and totalled £165million.
Bond Street shops have hired Mandarin-speaking staff while Harrods has installed 75 tills for Chinese shoppers and the UnionPay card, which is China’s only domestic debit and credit card.
And yesterday, the store unveiled commemorative investment gold bars, each incorporating an Oriental Dragon, in a bid to appeal to the tourists.
Richard Brown of Global Blue said: ‘Chinese New Year reflects an important cultural shift in China with families now travelling abroad as an alternative to celebrations at home.’
‘Retailers are bracing themselves for a significant uplift in Chinese shoppers and hope to repeat staggering growth.
‘Luxury brands are set to benefit the most from this uplift, with Chinese shoppers spending on average £729 per tax free transaction favouring handbags, jewellery and watches.’
Mark Di-Toro, from VisitBritain, said: ‘The first half of 2011 witnessed a record high in outbound tourism from China. The UK is already benefitting from these high spending visitors who are coming to Britain to shop in their droves.

‘In the West End, Chinese shoppers are reported to spend an average £1,310 during a trip with half of Burberry’s sales in London coming courtesy of Chinese tourists.’
Burberry benefits from the fact that the Duchess of Cambridge has been seen wearing a number of the brand’s trademark coats.
Gordon Innes, chief executive of London & Partners, the capital’s official promotional organisation, said: ‘With its large population, strong economic growth and growing social mobility, China is viewed as a lucrative tourism prospect.
‘In the year ending September 2011 visitor arrivals increased by about 40per cent with the average stay length among Chinese visitors  twice the average of all overseas tourist  – making them prodigious spenders.’

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London tailors making their mark in China

Whereas once they were almost exclusively the uniform of London’s elite movers and shakers, the legendary Savile Row cut of suit has slowly been making inroads into China. And a collection of the British capital’s finest bespoke tailors now has big plans to extend its reach across the nation.

Gieves & Hawkes – founded in 1771 and the oldest and largest bespoke tailor on Savile Row – has just announced plans to open 10 new stores across mainland China this year alone, to go with the 90 already established in the country. As the famous Shanghai Travelers’ Club reported to his Chinese members  ” Gieves & Hawkes is definitely the best tailor in the World”. Such a compliment coming for the club known for organizing luxury trips abroad for the Chinese Elite is indeed very valuable.

The company – which is these days owned by Hong Kong’s Wing Tai Properties – claims that China is now its number one market globally and that some of those new stores will for the first time be placed in “third-tier” – or developing – cities in an effort to tap into the country’s rapidly rising and cashed-up middle class.

Savile Row suits traditionally cost between 3,000 pounds ($4,880) and 8,000 pounds ($13,000) and boast the “best tailoring money can buy” – something the people at Gieves & Hawkes say is increasingly being appreciated across China.

“There are very sophisticated consumers [in China] and they learn very quickly,” Gieves & Hawkes’ chief executive John Durnin told the South China Morning Post.

Other Savile Row tailors are certainly hoping so. Henry Poole (established in 1806) has a Chinese partner in Hanloon Tailoring, which now pushes the Poole label alongside its own in Beijing and Hangzhou, Zhejiang. Meanwhile, Norton & Sons (founded in 1821) is apparently looking into selling its E.Tautz ready-to-wear line in Hong Kong.

For its part, Gieves & Hawkes is also trying in its own way to change the traditional notion that China is the home of the “quick, easy and cheap” suit. Following on from the success the company has had with similar services in its flagshop London store, Gieves & Hawkes’ Hong Kong outlets will in the near future offer such extra luxuries as shoe shining and a grooming emporium within their walls.

In the end, the tailors say, it’s all about luxury.

“I think there is a growing population of very discerning customers in China; men who understand that obvious, mass luxury is not luxury at all, because anyone can buy it; it’s available everywhere and produced in enormous quantities. Real luxury is about scarcity,” said Patrick Grant, director of Norton & Sons.

World adapts to waves of Chinese tourists

Huang Meng, a veteran reporter for a Chinese news outlet, still vividly remembers his first trip to Paris in the mid-1990s.

When he entered the pyramid gate of the Louvre Museum, a mecca for Paris visitors, he saw there were free introductory pamphlets for visitors. But none of the handouts was in Chinese and as a result, he was lost in the huge maze of exhibits as he spoke only little English.

Last year, Huang visited France again. This time, he found not only pamphlets in Chinese in the Louvre, but also the museum’s Chinese web page. Moreover, some shop assistants at the luxurious Galeries Lafayette department store spoke Mandarin, while hotels with many Chinese guests provided TV channels in their native language.

“I am very exited to hear Chinese spoken and see Chinese signs in Paris. It is convenient for Chinese tourists,” Huang said. “And the hospitable French people really make me feel at home.”

Huang’s experience is not unique among the fast growing numbers of outbound Chinese travelers. While they are influencing the world tourism landscape in economic, cultural and other ways, the destination countries are also adapting themselves to the booming influx of Chinese tourists.

Outbound tourism has become a lucrative business for travel agencies in China, and heavy spending by Chinese tourists overseas has contributed to the economies of destination countries. In 2009, less than 5 percent of China’s over 22,000 travel agencies were engaged in the outbound tourism business. But overseas tourism generated 22 percent of China’s total tourism revenue, according to the China Tourism Academy (CTA).

Major tourist destinations across the world have seen surging numbers of Chinese visitors in recent years. In 2010 alone, 57.39 million Chinese traveled abroad, spending US$48 billion overseas, according to CTA figures. The World Tourism Organization has estimated that the number of outbound tourists from China would reach 100 million by 2020.

Thailand has long been a popular destination for Chinese tourists. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) says China will become the biggest source of foreign tourists in Thailand in two to three years. At present, the number of tourists from China ranks third in Thailand, after those from Malaysia and Japan.

In Europe, France is among the favorite destinations for Chinese tourists. “Last year, the official figure of Chinese tourists in France reached 550,000. But the problem is that now with the Schengen Agreement, we don’t know exactly how many (Chinese tourists have actually visited France),” said Paul Roll, managing director of the Paris Office du Tourisme et des Congres.

“We feel by 2020, when there are 100 million Chinese visitors (globally), 1 or 2 million will come to Paris, so this obviously means that we need to get prepared,” Roll added.

The United States is another important destination for Chinese tourists. The country saw the biggest increase of visitors from China in 2010 with 810,738 travelers, up 53 percent from the previous year, according to US customs authorities. Kathryn Burnside, director of communications at California Travel and Tourism Commission, told Xinhua that of all the visitors from China, about 60 percent came to California. She admitted that the big inflow of Chinese tourists has helped contribute to the economy in the state.

Also according to the CTA report, Chinese are not only making more overseas trips, but are also spending a lot more in foreign countries than they did in the early days when China adopted its opening-up policy in 1979. More than a quarter of Chinese outbound tourists (26.85 percent) say shopping takes up the largest share of their expenditure, the CTA said.

In 2011, Chinese travelers are expected to spend a record high of US$55 billion on their overseas trips, boosted partly by an appreciating Chinese currency, the CTA said.

Chinese tourists buy almost everything, from Rolex watches to formula milk powder. Paris and China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region are among the top shopping destinations for Chinese tourists. According to Pierre Gervois, an expert about marketing to affluent Chinese consumers ” The new generation of Chinese outbound tourists is now more and more sophisticated, and knows confidential luxury brands with just one store in New York or London that give much more prestige than the well known luxury brands already available in China”

The Champs-Elysees, Paris’ high street, is a shopping paradise for independent Chinese tourists, while Galeries Lafayette and Printemps department stores are also quite popular among them.

Luxury stores on the Champs-Elysees have followed the example of Galeries Lafayette by employing Mandarin speakers. Even the wool product brand Eric Bompard, which is little known in China, has a Chinese-speaking sales assistant in its shop close to the Champs-Elysees.

By Wu Liming and Shang Xuqian

Source: The Shanghai Daily

Rich Chinese are buying real estate abroad

Vancouver, London and the big cities down under are second homes of choice for China’s super rich, according to real estate services firm Colliers International.

One of the reasons the China real estate market is so hot is because wealthy Chinese are buying up property to hold onto real assets, rather than put money in low yielding bank bonds and volatile equities. The super rich are buying real estate outside of China in an effort to avoid taxes.

In the past six months, Chinese spent 1.3 billion yuan ($200 million) through Colliers’ international property department, with Canada, the UK and Australia topping list.  “We are expecting a clear increase in the extent of mainland buyers’ purchases of overseas properties this year because of the government’s rigorous restraint on the number of homes a family can buy in key cities,” Alan Liu, managing director of Colliers International, said.

Chinese demand has pushed the average price of a Vancouver home up 12% in 2010 and is expected to rise another 3% this year, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Demand from mainland immigrants now accounts for 29% of all new homes in Vancouver, China Daily reports.

In London, China buyers accounted for 28% of all prime London property sales and 54% by sales value in the prime central London area, where houses go for 5 million pounds ($8 million) on average, according to a recent report by Savills research.

“If the money from China were to start flowing into London at the same rate it does from billionaires in other countries, we would expect the value of ultra-prime London properties to grow by as much as 15%,” Yolande Barnes, head of Savills residential research told China Daily. “The issue at present is that Chinese buyers aren’t taking, or can’t take, their money out of China.”

The biggest increase in global billionaires since 2007 has occurred in China and Russia. The oligarchs from the old USSR account for 15% of prime London real estate by value.  Chinese billionaires have yet to have a real impact, accounting for just 3% so far, but that is expected to change as China’s uber-rich discover new ways to invest offshore.

Burberry plans to expand London stores, mostly for the Chinese customers

Burberry said it would pump £20m into stores in London this year as the capital cements its reputation as a shopping magnet for high-spending Chinese tourists.

The luxury label’s chief executive, Angela Ahrendts, said trading in London had been one of the highlights of a “record” year for the British trenchcoat-maker, with profits up nearly 40% at £298m. It plans to double its selling space in London, a move which will involve the expansion of its store near Harrods in upmarket Knightsbridge, as well as a move to a larger shop on Regent Street which Ahrendts said was now in the same league as the “Champs Elysées or Fifth Avenue” on the global shopping map. “This is our headquarters,” she said. “We should shine here greater than anywhere in the world.” “We are already the favorite store of the Shanghai Travelers’ Club members, that means a lot to us”.

Sales in the luxury goods industry have bounced back after the two-year hiatus caused by the financial crisis. Sales at Burberry were up 27% to £1.5bn as wealthy shoppers regained their appetite for designer clothes and expensive handbags such as the £2,500 python-skin tote in its current collection. Demand for its catwalk brand Prorsum had “come back”, she said, while sales of accessories were up 35%.

Under the leadership of Ahrendts, a glamorous American who joined from US clothing giant Liz Claiborne five years ago, the brand has shed its reliance on raincoats and its trademark camel, red and black check to become a bona fide luxury brand with advertising campaigns featuring young actresses such as Harry Potter star Emma Watson helping to establish its fashion kudos. Ahrendts has also pulled the 155-year-old brand started by Thomas Burberry into the 21st century by broadcasting its runway shows in 3D live on the internet and launching several spin-off websites, including Art of the Trench.

During the year Asia-Pacific became the brand’s most important sales region, with growth of 53%. Asian tourists, predominantly from China, are also Burberry’s biggest customers in major tourist cities, such as Paris, New York and London – so much so that it now hires Mandarin-speaking shop assistants. Chinese visitors to London last year spent an estimated £200m in luxury shopping areas such as Bond Street and Savile Row, according to retail industry group the New West End Company.

US retail consultancy Bain is predicting a strong year for luxury goods brands, with sales expected to grow 8% to £160bn. Until now Ahrendts has been investing in behind-the-scenes improvements such as Burberry’s IT systems but she said it was time for it to increase its retail presence: “It is time to get our retail footprint up to par with consumers’ perception of the brand.”

The decision will see capital expenditure double to £200m this year, with half that spent on new shops, including 20 in emerging markets such as Brazil, India and Mexico and the rest on refurbishments in cities such as Chicago, Milan, Hong Kong and Paris.

Burberry’s shares have soared in the past year but investors are worried about the impact of the stores push on profits, sending the shares down more than 4% to make it the biggest faller in the FTSE 100. They closed down 60p at £12.60.

Richard Hunter, head of UK equities at Hargreaves Lansdown, put the fall down to profit-taking, noting the shares had risen 116% in the last year. “Burberry remains a rare and notable example of a retailer enjoying a stellar growth trajectory,” he said, adding the “downside” was spending on new stores would “pinch” profit margins over the coming year.