As many celebrate the start of the Chinese New Year, London’s West End has prepared for an influx of keen international shoppers to stores.
Every year at this time the West End has an influx of Chinese shoppers ready to spend… hence the term ‘Chinese golden week’.
Chinese tourists are an integral part of the West End experience during this celebratory month.
Last year this consumer group was responsible for 20% of all sales made in the West End, an 8% uplift from the previous month when the figure stood at 12% of all sales.
As Chinese tourists take advantage of the heritage brands exclusive to the UK, and the West End, Global Blue recently revealed that their average spend tallies up to £1,622 per transaction.
This year, we expect to see a strong presence of Chinese visitors treating themselves in the West End – fitting with the ambitious and adventurous style of the year of the fire monkey when you think about it.
Recognising the investment tourism can bring not just to West End retail, but the UK economy as a whole, the Government has started to make changes to the Chinese tourism visa system.
At the end of the last year, New West End Company, as part of the UK Chinese Visa Alliance (UKCVA), was instrumental in extending the standard visa term from six months to two years.
With easier and flexible access Chinese tourists will continue to spend in the shops and visit attractions, despite tougher economics at home.
While good strides have been made, more needs to be done to entice Chinese shoppers to the UK throughout the entire year, and not just during this celebratory month. This is why a cheaper 10-year visa is needed.
It would boost Britain’s bid to compete with countries such as America, Australia, Canada and Singapore and gain an estimated 265,000 visitors a year.
The case was proved when the US introduced 10-year visas at the end of 2013. In the following two months Chinese visitor numbers soared by nearly 70%.
Lowering the cost of a 10-year visa would encourage more than 250,000 extra high-spending tourists into the UK each year, boosting the economy by around £337m in revenue. Not to mention that it would cut the cost of processing requests for the UK by £20m.
A move to make 10-year visas for all Chinese tourists more affordable would bring high net worth tourists to our shores and save millions of pounds in administration fees.
With British retail, and specifically West End retail, in constant competition with other world renowned shopping destinations, we must do everything we can to accommodate for international visitors after realising their potential to boost our economy.
Luckily, the proposal has come at a time when UK-China relations are particularly strong, after the Chinese President visited Britain last October.
We look forward to this time of year and the Chinese tourists that come back to the West End year in year out, as well as those visiting for the first time.
All we need now is a change in legislation and the political push to put it into action.
- Jace Tyrrell is chief executive of the New West End Company