China is an absolutely vital market for the UK. The Chinese are one of the key groups for driving growth in our retail economy, and  also for business expansion.

China is an absolutely vital market for the UK. The Chinese are one of the key groups for driving growth in our retail economy, and  also for business expansion.

Over the past few years, New West End Company has been at the forefront of the campaign to recognise the importance of Chinese retail tourism for the retail market in the UK, particularly in the luxury market and especially in London. It is a founding member of the UK China Visa Alliance – an organisation set up two years ago to focus on the China mission and the powerful role this market plays in maintaining a buoyant retail economy.

We applaud what has been achieved so far to highlight the challenges of the visa application system and welcome the Chancellor’s announcement to simplify the process for Chinese visitors.

We want to capitalise on the momentum there is to streamline the process, so we urge the government to continue to drive forward ambitions to make it even easier for Chinese visitors to come to the UK, while protecting the UK’s borders. That way we can ensure we are capturing the potential £1.2 billion spend from the Chinese that is estimated as currently being lost.

With 100,000,000 Chinese travellers expected by 2015, the opportunity for London is boundless. According to Global Blue, Chinese spend has represented a fifth of total international spend in London’s West End so far this year.  Total spend is up 35% on last year, demonstrating the growth is continuing. We represent 600 businesses across the West End and as Chinese shoppers have an average transaction value of £1,386 in the area, the potential is enormous.

This week, we have sent out a group of delegates, to take part in a five day mission to Beijing and Shanghai. Our delegates represent Bond Street, the London luxury quarter - established in partnership with the Heart of London Business Alliance to support the ambition of London’s West End to become a leading destination for high value shopping – and the UK China Visa Alliance. The  London luxury quarter hosted an event attended by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, where  we revealed spend from Chinese travellers across Mayfair, Piccadilly and St James’s topped £262 million in 2012, an annual increase of 31%.

These high spending travelers are keen to come to holiday and also to forge long term relationships through business investments and acquire property.

It is now more important than ever to help make it as easy as possible for Chinese tourists to visit the UK. And not give a competitive advantage to rival European cities. The three main rivals are France, Germany and Italy according to Global Blue figures, which show sales growth in the UK last year was lower than both France and Germany, while average spend in the UK is above only Germany.

So, while the UK is performing well, it is at risk of seeing its main rivals move further ahead so it is integral that the government keep the momentum following the Chancellor’s announcement.

Richard Dickinson is chief executive of New West End Company