Business / Industries

Retailers aim to woo China's big spenders

By Cecily Liu in London (China Daily) Updated: 2012-06-27 11:23

Retailers aim to woo China's big spenders

A Chinese breakfast served atThe Grosvenor hotel in London. The hotel has "received above average bookings from Chinese-based businesses for the Olympic period", said Operations Manager Dean Culpan. [Photo/China Daily]

London's retailers have long been wooing big-spending Chinese tourists, but this year's Olympics has made them ever keener to introduce innovative offerings, to capitalize upon so rare an opportunity.

The Grosvenor, a four-star hotel near London's Victoria Railway Station, is introducing a selection of Chinese breakfast items from early July, said Operations Manager Dean Culpan.

The new menu will include congee, pickled vegetables, century eggs, salted duck eggs, and youtiao (fried dough sticks), as well as an assortment of dim sum, buns and dumplings.

The hotel will also add Chinese newspapers and TV channels in guest rooms, and provide Mandarin information booklets, as the hotel has "received above average bookings from Chinese-based businesses for the Olympic period", said Culpan.

Harrods, the iconic department store in Knightsbridge, has launched an Android app in Mandarin to help Chinese shoppers better navigate its large store space. Functions of the app include a GPS guide, news and events updates and restaurant menus.

As a part of the promotion, the store invited a group of Chinese celebrities to try the app, and write about it on a micro blog. The celebrities included Happy Camp presenters Li Weijia and He Jiong of Hunan Satellite TV.

One reason that Chinese tourists have become a focus for many London retailers is that they "particularly like to shop", said Mary Rance, chief executive of Britain's tourism industry association UKinbound.

Rance said that retailers are increasingly opening new outlets in hotels, to make shopping easier for Chinese tourists.

Not only do Chinese tourists like shopping, they also have the financial means to do so, despite the current world economic downturn.

In the financial year ending in November, Chinese shoppers spent $2.15 trillion on tax-free products, a 56 percent increase year-on-year, according to the tax refund services provider Global Blue.

Luxury stores like Harrods, Selfridges and Liberty are already well aware of the benefits of employing Mandarin-speaking staff, but this trend is now spreading to other venues.

This includes Leaderboard Golf, a club with courses in several locations in southern England.

"The Chinese have developed a love for golf and we felt it is logical to reach out to this new tourist group and make it clear that they are welcome at our courses," said Paul Gibbons, chairman of Leaderboard.

Overseas subsidiaries of Chinese companies are also engaged in the competition to capture tourism income from the Chinese market.

China Telecom, the nation's largest fixed-line operator by customer numbers, launched a UK SIM card earlier this year.

With a 24-hour Chinese language customer service line providing information on transport routes and tourism services, the new product is expected to make Chinese tourists' holidays more convenient.

Ou Yan, managing director of China Telecom Europe, told China Daily that the launch was linked to the Olympics, and that the SIM card will be available for purchase in China, so that visitors can use it upon arriving in the UK.

While all these initiatives should give the UK's tourism industry a boost during the Olympics, Rance believes the real challenge lies in the longer term to attract Chinese tourists.

"Chinese tourists are important all of the time, not just for the Olympics, because they're incredibly important as a source market for the UK," she said.

"Providing bespoke services to Chinese tourists is important, as well as doing more to understand their needs."

She added that other issues UKinbound was lobbying the government on include speeding up the visa process for tourists, and reducing air passenger duty, which can cost between 85 pounds ($132) and 92 pounds per passenger for long-haul flights of more than 6,400 kilometers.

"So I don't think an increase in tourist numbers is going to just happen, I think it'll be done with a bit of help from the government," she said.

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