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All tourists are welcome, Cambridge insists

By Bo Leung in London | China Daily | Updated: 2018-12-21 08:35
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The Fitzwilliam Museum (top) and the Magdalene Bridge (above) in Cambridge are popular destinations for Chinese tourists. China moved into the UK's 10 most-valuable inbound visitor markets last year for the first time, with visits reaching a record-breaking 270,000. [Photo provided to China Daily]

But UK university city hopes to attract visitors in smaller groups.

Tour operators in the university city of Cambridge in the United Kingdom have stressed that all Chinese visitors are welcome, despite local media reports stating that limits have been imposed on the size of tour groups.

Emma Thornton, CEO of tour company Visit Cambridge and Beyond, said the city wants to encourage tourists of all nationalities to visit in smaller groups, or to travel to it independently, to improve their experience.

Cambridge, with its world-renowned university, is a magnet for Chinese visitors, many of them middle-class parents wanting to check out the school on behalf of their children.

"We have a very compact city center with a medieval streetscape, so when you've got groups of 50 or more, they don't see a lot," Thornton said.

"Most of the colleges will only allow groups of no more than 20, so a big part of our objective is about making sure people have a really fantastic experience when they come here. If we could encourage tour operators to ensure visitors explore the city in smaller groups, their experience would be so much better," she added.

King's College is a particularly popular destination for tourists from China, as the poem On Leaving Cambridge by Xu Zhimo, a former student at the university, is displayed in the college grounds.

Visit Cambridge and Beyond hopes to establish better communications with tour organizations to enhance visitors' experience of the city.

"On a typical July Saturday, more than 100 coaches that can each seat 50 people arrive, and probably 90 percent of those don't engage with us at all as a business or as an organization," Thornton said

The Round Church, King's College Chapel and punting on the River Cam in Cambridge are popular attractions for visitors to the city. [Photo provided to China Daily, Joe Giddens/PA VIA AP]

"It's about working more closely with them and developing a relationship - a relationship which, sadly, we don't currently have."

Visit Cambridge and Beyond said it has been working with a new organization, the Cambridge China Centre, which was established six months ago specifically to help British and Chinese businesses collaborate more closely across all sectors.

John Milne, guided tours manager at Visit Cambridge and Beyond, said: "We're looking at arranging a conference for group travel operators in the spring of next year. We want to encourage them to come along to talk to us, to work with us, to see how we might, together, improve the quality of the experience that visitors have, and certainly that's very focused on the Chinese market but equally with other international markets."

According to VisitBritain, the United Kingdom's official tourism body, China moved into the UK's 10 most-valuable inbound visitor markets last year for the first time, with visits reaching a record-breaking 270,000, a rise of 46 percent on 2014. Spending rose by 18 percent, to 586 million pounds ($759 million).

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