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Chinese visitors help boost UK tourism

By ANGUS McNEICE | China Daily UK | Updated: 2017-10-10 17:07

The drop in the value of sterling following Britain's referendum decision to leave the European Union, coupled with an increase in the number of visitors from China, contributed to a record year for the country's tourism sector, according to the United Kingdom's tourism authority.

From January to July, there were a record 23.1 million visits to the UK from overseas, up 8 percent on the same period last year, according to VisitBritain's annual review.

Visitors spent a total 13.3 billion pounds ($17.5 billion), up 9 percent.

Britons are also taking more holidays at home. From January to June, there was a 7 percent rise in the number of domestic overnight holidays in England, up to a record 20.4 million. These holidaymakers spent 4.6 billion pounds, up 17 percent, which was also a record.

VisitBritain chairman Steve Ridgway said: "Tourism is an economic powerhouse, worth 127 billion pounds annually to the economy and a job creator right across Britain."

Between January and March, visits from China to the UK were up 27 percent to 54,000, when compared to the same time in 2016.

Chinese visitors spent 91 million pounds between January and March, an increase of 27 percent compared to the same period in 2016.

Flight bookings from China to the UK between October and December are up 8 percent compare with the same period last year, higher than the total inbound increase of 7 percent, according to travel consultancy ForwardKeys, suggesting the trend is continuing.

Ridgway said the 16 percent fall in the exchange rate boosted the UK's attractiveness as a destination to both overseas and domestic visitors.

Britain was 10 percent cheaper for Chinese visitors in September compared to the same period in 2015. Chinese tourists have saved as much as 12 percent on holidays to the UK since the pound weakened last summer.

Visitor numbers from China to London are expected to reach 330,000 a year by 2025, up from 160,000 in 2016, according the office of Sadiq Khan, London's mayor, making China the city's fastest-growing major tourism market.

Ridgway said the UK tourism industry needs a long-term strategy in order to maintain its strong growth.

"Tourism is a fiercely competitive global industry and you cannot just build a strong, resilient industry on a weaker currency," Ridgway said. "We must continue to invest in developing world-class tourism products, getting Britain on the wish-list of international and domestic travelers. And we must make it easy for visitors to make that trip."

John Glen, the UK's minister for tourism, said: "Internationally, we are performing strongly in a hugely competitive market and I will continue to work closely with the sector to maintain growth, get the best possible deal as we exit the EU, and retain the UK's position as must-visit destination."

The Tourism Industry Council has outlined plans for a campaign to boost recruitment and job training in the sector. It also wants improved connectivity and the creation of "tourism zones".

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