Chinese students and the UK education market: an interview with Tony Evans, Co-Founder of Experio Life and Bristol International College

Tony, tell us about yourself; what’s your experience in education and what do you do?

After graduating in Modern European Studies in 1984 and travelling extensively throughout Europe for a year, I embarked on a career in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) which spanned 6 years and took me to Germany, Italy and France. I then moved into Operations Management (staff recruitment, programming and troubleshooting) before taking on roles in Sales and Marketing with a number of leading organizations in the industry. Since September 1995 I have been involved in the creation and management of 4 start-up companies in the UK, France and Germany. In 2001, I set up Experio Life Ltd., a consultancy business specializing in educational travel for the youth market and in 2019 I co-founded Bristol International College, a University of London-recognised teaching centre located in the heart of Bristol.

What proportion of Chinese students attend your independent and public schools? And how has the market changed over the last few years?

In 2019, 50% of our international students were from China compared to less than 10% in 2016. While it’s true that we saw growth in many existing and several new markets over that period, none was so strong as that from China.

When did you start first realise that there might be an opportunity to attract Chinese students to independent schools and summer schools in the UK?

Since the early 2000s, we have had a good number of Hong Kong students every year but in spite of the best efforts of those Hng Kong-based agents to penetrate the mainland Chinese market, we didn’t welcome our first Chinese students until 2014.

How did you approach the market?

In the first instance, we were approached by the Bristol-China Partnership (now known as the Bristol & West of England China Bureau) to host a small group of friends and relatives of one of their Chinese staff members who was also a Post Graduate student at the University of Bristol. This turned out to be a very positive experience for all concerned and was repeated the following summer with a much larger group. At that point I realised the growth potential for student recruitment from China.

How did you find someone to work with in China?

We received another local contact from the Bristol-China Partnership, a Chinese lady with a background in Finance but with great entrepreneurial spirit and skills who had recently moved to Bristol to accompany her son, who had taken up a place in Clifton College Prep School. We immediately agreed to work together on the recruitment of Chinese students for our summer schools and state school integration programmes and I’m delighted to say that we are still working together and had great success up until Covid-19 struck.

At around the same time in 2015, we were talking to a student marketing company about how best to access the Chinese market from an in-country perspective and they recommended that we engage a full-time bilingual Sales Representative who we trained in the UK and then deployed in China to contact and pre-select educational travel agents on our behalf.

You visited China for 30 days/year for several years to build contacts; how did you plan your visits and decide who to meet?

Yes, that’s correct…so from 2016 – 2019 I visited China two or three times per year in order to meet and consolidate existing relationships and to forge new ones with agents who had been pre-selected by our local representative (ie vetted to meet certain criteria that qualified them as having good potential to deliver students to our portfolio of programmes). Our local rep was responsible for the itinerary for each trip including accommodation, ground transportation and flights but in some cases these costs were borne by the agents that we were meeting since I would be required to visit schools and universities together with the agent and often give a presentation to Senior Management Teams, English teachers, students, parents etc.

What are your general experiences of working in China? What were your biggest challenges?

I must say that despite the extensive travel involved and the somewhat repetitive nature of visiting schools and giving presentations, I have really enjoyed all my trips to China and I have been made to feel extremely welcome wherever I have been. And I have eaten some of the most delicious food I’ve ever had anywhere. On the few occasions that I have travelled alone in China, I found the language barrier the biggest challenge…especially with taxi drivers!

Can you tell us about guanxi and how it has affected how you work with the Chinese?

Guanxi is a Chinese term meaning “networks” or “connections” that open doors for new business and facilitate deals. Understanding this concept and how to implement it within the context of student recruitment has been fundamental to our success in developing China as a market. Having a basic understanding of Chinese culture and demonstrating this understanding and your respect for the ways in which things are done through the way you behave yourself in everyday situations, and in the way you do business, is key to creating the guanxi from which successful and long-lasting business relationships and partnerships develop.

What are the most important factors in attracting Chinese students in the age of Covid-19?

The most important factors are showing empathy and understanding for the concerns that students, parents and agents have surrounding safety and security issues, and then being able to address those concerns with tangible solutions. Students want to study abroad and many would be prepared to take the small risk involved currently but parents are the ultimate decision makers since they are financing it and they won’t take any risks where their children are concerned. Consequently, we have to satisfy the parents that not only will we provide an excellent educational experience for their children but that we can also guarantee their safety and well-being. We need the external factors such as transportation and visa processing to be available too.

Video interview: ‘The life of a Chinese student in the U.K’

Chinese student in the U.K

The UK is one of the most popular places in the world for Chinese students seeking education abroad; in fact, it is estimated that there are around 130,000 Chinese undergraduates and postgraduates studying in the UK, with numbers growing every year.

So what draws Chinese students to the UK? What do they like to do here and what places to they like to visit?

We sat down with University of Sussex student, Joanna, to discuss what it is that brings Chinese Students to the U.K, how they like to travel and what student life is like in a foreign country.

If you’d like to find out more about how the Chinese travel and decide on where to visit, be sure to check out some of our other related articles:

Why are the Chinese going Nordic? – Part 1: Norway

Top 7 Apps Chinese Outbound Tourists Use Overseas – Part 1: Getting Around

Top 7 Apps Chinese Outbound Tourists Use Overseas – Part 2: Discovery

Music Credits:

‘Dawn’ – Sappheiros

A Guide to Chinese students studying abroad in Europe

Over the past few years, there has been significant growth in the number of Chinese students living and studying abroad, and this is expected to increase in the next five years.

Yu Minhong, founder and CEO of the New Oriental Education and Technology Group, estimates that the number of Chinese students studying abroad is approximately 800,000 per annum. One of the most popular destinations for Chinese students to study is Europe and the UK –  the latter being the second most popular host country for international students from the Asia-Pacific region, after the U.S. In this article, we look at some of the reasons why Chinese families choose to send their children to Europe to study.

Career Prospects

Any international student that plans on moving to Europe to study is taking a step in the right direction. While studying in Europe, students will gain transferrable skills and knowledge that are valuable to future employers, receive world-class education from the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world, and experience attractive and exciting student cities.

Top Cities and Universities

For Chinese students, moving abroad to study is a very exciting time in their lives and, of course, they want to make the most of their time. While you may think London is the top destination for Chinese students, North West England is actually the leader in recruiting Chinese students to their universities, with the top universities in that area being Manchester and Liverpool with approximately 7,000 Chinese students.

Between China Daily’s list of top ten UK Universities, US news’s list of the best Global European universities, and the UK’s Council for International Students’ top universities for recruiting international students, we can say that the top three universities and cities for Chinese students are:

1. University of Manchester (Manchester)

2. Pierre and Marie Curie University (France)

3. University College London (London)

Chinese Student Societies

China has the largest number of international students in Europe compared with any other country. Most universities in Europe have societies – groups of like-minded people who share common interests, whether it be religion, country of origin, art and culture, science, etc. Societies allow students to meet new people, learn new skills, and most importantly have fun.

Most universities have a Chinese or Asian society that students can join at the beginning of their first year. Here, they meet new friends and travel around Europe together. Chinese students are usually comfortable with other Chinese students, therefore you would usually see them travelling together in groups. Once or twice a year, we plan a student VIP trip where we contact the Presidents of Chinese Societies from different universities, asking them if they’d like to embark on a trip highlighting different attractions, hotels, and restaurants in Europe. This is a great marketing initiative, since Chinese Student Societies have their own social media groups and platforms where information is seen and shared.

Minor Challenges

Like any other international destination, there are some hurdles. Some of these are:

1. Visa requirements – Chinese students are required to apply for a student visa/ temporary residency in Europe in order to be registered as a student.

2. English language requirement – In order to be granted a student visa, it is required of the student to pass an English test.

3. Cultural difference – this can be both a positive and negative aspect of your studying experience, but for some, adapting to a new culture and its people, food, and lifestyle, can be rewarding and eye-opening.

Though it might be challenging to be away from family and friends for so long, Chinese students should really immerse themselves in the experience of being away from home. Taking advantage of the networking opportunities that are offered is key. Universities often promote many different networking opportunities, such as work placements, volunteer work, and even roles in clubs and societies.

For instance, Sara, our Travel Trade Manager, was on a work placement with us – a requirement from her university at the time. Sara did an exceptional job in her role, and kept in contact with us. Upon the completion of her studies, we just so happened to need a Travel Trade Manager at our Beijing office, and Sara was the perfect person for the role, especially since she was already familiar with the company and the work required.

Employability Rate

There is still an element of uncertainty with whether studying abroad will benefit one’s career, and if the experience of studying abroad will boost their employability rate. However, we would say the experience is overwhelmingly positive. Research was conducted on the link between employability and international students, showing that almost 60% of students find full-time jobs after studying abroad. Similarly, recent research was done by Ka Ho Mok and Han Xio on Chinese students’ experience in Europe and their chances of employability after studying. The study showed that Chinese students’ employability rate is good, with nearly 59% being able to find a job within three months, and 32% had secured jobs within 6 months of their studies.

Other Tourism Opportunities

Chinese students bring many tourism and business opportunities to Europe. Some opportunities to keep in mind are:

1. The Chinese student market is quite large. More Chinese students study abroad than any other country, and Europe is one of the top destinations for these students.

2. Chinese students are already in Europe – this is much easier than attracting Chinese students from China. Take advantage of the fact that they are already here and ready to travel and spend.

3. Chinese students are loaded! Over the past few years, Chinese students have had the reputation of being luxurious spenders. Our intern Claudio, who works at a fancy restaurant, says they enjoy fine dining – “nothing but oysters and lobsters.”

4. If they are already spending a lot, imagine when their parents come to visit! Parents and grandparents usually visit their children while they are studying abroad, and they won’t be able to resist not having the best of times while they are there.

5. They are ready to travel Europe for new experiences. Europe is relatively small compared to China, and it is far from home, so they plan on making the best of their time here.

6. Chinese students are social media friendly, regularly sharing their experiences with others. Their main social media platforms are WeChat and Weibo (check out our previous blog on these).

If you are interested in the benefits of attracting more Chinese visitors, please contact us for a chat.

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Inaugural Chinese Student Society VIP Fam Trip to Brighton

There are around 130,000 students from mainland China and Hong Kong studying in the UK, making the UK one of the most popular countries in the world for overseas study. During their degrees, students explore beyond their university towns and share their experiences with their fellow students, and their friends and family back in China, primarily using social media. We were keen to find a way to engage this large group for the benefit of our tourism clients, and to leverage their activity on Chinese social media.

Many universities have a Chinese Student Society which provides a strong network for students and support during their time away from home. The Presidents of these societies have access to various communications platforms, including well-followed WeChat accounts, Weibo and the Society communication outlets. They also have great personal networks. We felt that these senior members of the Societies would be our prime influencers.

Last weekend, our inaugural Chinese Student Society VIP Fam Trip took place in Brighton & Hove. We worked with VisitBrighton to organise a fun-packed weekend for the Presidents and Vice-Presidents of Chinese Student Societies from five UK universities; Kings College London, Bournemouth University, University of the West of England, Lancaster University and the University of Birmingham. The students and their partners had a fantastic time exploring the city, eating out in restaurants such as the award-winning vegetarian restaurant, Terre à Terre, and the seafood restaurant, The Regency. They visited some of Brighton’s iconic sights such as the Royal Pavilion, the Palace Pier, Brighton Beach and the vintage shopping areas of the North Laine and The Lanes. As students, they also made the most of the nightlife of the city, enjoying live music, pubs, clubs and even a karaoke bar. All their experiences were photographed, photoshopped (as is common practice in China!) and shared through their Societies’ and their own social media networks and in online blogs.

Here’s what they got up to:


After arriving at the Old Ship Hotel, the group headed to the award-winning vegetarian restaurant, Terre à Terre for a meal hosted by Julia and Katie from VisitBrighton and Helena and Sara from China Travel Outbound. They were keen to know all about the city, its bars and clubs and, very importantly, where they could find the best vintage clothes shops. Map apps on their phones made it very easy for us to pin shops, bars and places of interest. After a delicious meal which they really enjoyed, the group continued on to the Mesmerist Pub to see a live band then on for a spot of karaoke at Jade.

Terre a Terre 2


Next morning, the students were free to explore Brighton and its sights. They visited the Royal Pavilion where they marvelled at its Chinese-influenced décor, and enjoyed the arcades and rides on the iconic Palace Pier. Many of them also visited Sea Life, the world’s oldest operating aquarium. And, of course, shopping in the vintage North Laine, Lanes and Churchill Square were top of the list for others. In the evening, the group came back together to enjoy a meal at the ever-popular seafood restaurant, The Regency, before experiencing Brighton’s vibrant nightlife.


Collage 3


After breakfast, a walk down the seafront then time to head home. However, the sun was shining and it was such a beautiful day that some abandoned their train timetables and stayed a few hours longer to make the most of the city.

If your city is interested in working with Chinese Student Societies to promote your hotels and attractions on Chinese social media, please contact us to discuss.


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First ever Chinese Student Society VIP Fam Trip arrives in Brighton and Hove

The first ever VIP Fam Trip for senior members of the UK’s Chinese Student Societies takes place in Brighton and Hove this weekend.


The pilot project, organised by specialist PR and Marketing agency, China Travel Outbound, aims to raise the city’s profile within the Chinese student communities studying here in the UK, and with their friends and family in China. Presidents and Vice-Presidents of the Chinese Student Societies from five UK universities will enjoy a weekend as guests of VisitBrighton, sharing their experiences through their Societies’ social media networks, communication channels and through word of mouth with their fellow students. They will also be encouraged to give their own opinions of the attractions, hotels and restaurants they visit on China’s influential social media review sites, the Chinese equivalents of TripAdvisor.

There are around 130,000 students from mainland China and Hong Kong studying in the UK, making the UK one of the most popular countries in the world for overseas study. During their degrees, students explore the UK beyond their university towns, often accompanied by their parents or friends who take the opportunity to visit the UK during their studies. Chinese students are also excellent ambassadors for the UK, sharing their experiences with their friends back home using social media, both whilst they are here and upon their return to China.

Helena Beard, Managing Director of China Travel Outbound, said,

Whilst most of our PR and marketing campaigns are delivered in China, we have been keen to explore the opportunity offered by the Chinese students already in the UK. Chinese social media is very influential but it is difficult for UK destinations, hotels and attractions to achieve cut-through with limited budgets. By approaching the Presidents of the influential Chinese Societies as we would the media we hope to deliver positive social reach to highly targeted audiences in an accessible way.

Julia Gallagher, Head of Sales, VisitBrighton, said,

VisitBrighton is committed to targeting the Chinese market which is hugely important to the city, and the student market is one of the sectors we are keen to reach. Brighton is a natural choice for Chinese millennials seeking unique shopping experiences, delicious food and a vibrant cultural scene. We just need to raise our profile so they know we are here.’


Delegates from King’s College London, University of Birmingham, Lancaster University, Bournemouth University and the University of the West of England will be in Brighton 24th – 26th March ‘17. They will enjoy meals at the award-winning vegetarian restaurant, Terre à Terre, and Brighton’s ever-popular seafood restaurant, The Regency Restaurant. Also on the itinerary are visits to the Royal Pavilion, Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, the iconic Palace Pier and the towering British Airways i360.


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How to reach Chinese millennials? Get online.

In last week’s blog, we looked at the habits and demographics of 300 million Chinese millennials. Here, we look more closely at what travel and tourism brands can do to reach them.

It has been said that Chinese millennials “don’t go online, they live online”. Unsurprisingly, this tech-savvy cohort researches travel online, and likes reams of information about destinations, including experiences and where to eat/drink/shop. They like to decide exactly what they want to see and do before they depart, making it vital for destinations, hotels and visitor attractions to promote their offering in China in order to secure a space on millennials’ travel itineraries.

This segment has a research and booking window of 4-6 weeks before departure. WeChat is key: almost half of Chinese millennials get travel information through WeChat moments and 35% from WeChat shares by travel advisors. Weibo is also important. Supported by native advertising, the digital space is extremely well-placed to reach Chinese millennials planning travel. Melia hotels encourage online interaction through beautiful visuals and engaged nearly 1m Chinese travellers via WeChat and Weibo in 2015.

Key Opinion Leaders and public relations

Key Opinion Leaders and tastemakers are extremely influential for this group. From major celebrity partnerships to controversial blogger Papi Jiang for Jaeger LeCoultre and L’Oreal, and China Travel Outbound’s own work to bring Chinese rock group Miserable Faith to the original Hard Rock Cafe in London, gaining the right celebrity endorsement is a chance to bring your product to just the right millennial fan base. The Regency Restaurant in Brighton has benefitted from the endorsement of a Chinese food blogger while The Plough at Cadsden, host to David Cameron and President Xi Jinping in October 2015, has been visited by so many Chinese that it’s now been bought by Chinese investors.

Edinburgh brought 6 influential travel bloggers to Hogmanay in 2015. The resulting content has been viewed over 20 million times in China.

WiFi, websites and live streaming

39% of Chinese millennial travellers say they can’t go 5 minutes without looking at their mobile ‘phone, so mobile-friendly, responsive websites are essential for this demographic. And Chinese websites are not just a matter of translation; they must be structured, designed and written to meet Chinese needs. They also need to be hosted in China and to load speedily.

Live-streaming provides an opportunity for travel products to showcase their highlights. The right live streaming event with an influential Key Opinion Leader (KOL) could provide great cut-through for destinations willing to invest in this market to gain a lead on their rivals.

In destination marketing

Even if you haven’t managed to reach the travelling millennials until they’ve arrived in destination, all is not lost. Geographic targeting via WeChat can put your product in front of tourists adding the final hotels and restaurants to their itineraries. Shopping destinations and luxury brands can promote themselves using QR codes instore too.

130,000 students are already here

And finally, don’t forget the huge opportunity presented by the vast and growing Chinese student population here in the UK. With an estimated 130,000 Chinese students, the UK is one of the most popular choices for overseas study. And these affluent and educated young people want to explore, not just the UK, but the rest of Europe whilst they have this opportunity. Connect to them through WeChat or Weibo, or speak to China Travel Outbound about our connections to the influential Chinese Societies.

To find out more about how to market your destination, visitor attraction or hotel to the Chinese, contact us and we’ll talk you through some options.


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How to attract 300 million Chinese millennials

How to attract 300 million Chinese millennials

They’ve been called “the most important demographic in the world today”. They make up around 2/3 of Chinese outbound tourists and by 2020, they will number 300 million. This growing force in Chinese outbound tourism is travelling far and spending big – but who are the Chinese millennials and how can you attract them to your destination, hotel or visitor attraction? We look at the characteristics of Chinese millennials, how they plan their travel, and what attracts them.

Who are Chinese millennials?

Chinese millennials are commonly defined as those Chinese born in the 1980s and 1990s, so they range in age from 17 to 37. Thanks to China’s one child policy, they are the beloved focus not just of their parents, but also of two sets of grandparents, whose financial and emotional resources are concentrated on this single child.  By comparison with older generations, Chinese millennials are privileged and indulged. They are also more outward-looking than their parents, and some have studied overseas or at foreign schools in China. Indeed, 74% feel they have more in common with their age group globally than older Chinese.

Money to burn

Some, but not all, Chinese millennials are from wealthy families, and there are two key reasons why they have more ‘money to burn’ than their North American and European counterparts. Firstly, they have no student debt – tuition fees and living expenses are paid for by their families. (Contrast this with the USA where more than 7m student borrowers are already in default). Secondly, many Chinese millennials have no housing costs. Around 90% of Chinese households own their homes, and about 80% do so without mortgages or other loans, partly because Chinese culture takes a dim view of borrowing.

This young, middle-class group are, however, happy to take on non-student debt. Far from saving a portion of their income like their parents, they are China’s first generation whose need for instant gratification is driving them to (short-term) debt. They pay using credit cards and extended credit deals from platforms such as Alibaba and – and even peer-to-peer loans via WeChat. They are sometimes known as the Moonlight Generation, because their bank accounts are always light at the end of the month. But most know that their parents will bail them out if they need more cash.

Independent travellers seeking authentic and unique experiences

Millennials are in the vanguard of change in the Chinese outbound tourism market. Second generation travellers, they are less interested in the group trip ‘tick box’ tourism of their parents’ generation, and are instead travelling independently and seeking out authentic experiences.

According to a recent Trip Advisor survey, 9 in 10 Chinese millennials had booked their most recent trip in components. More than 3.5 million have used Airbnb outside China. 47% are interested in natural, cultural and historical attractions.

Chinese millennials are more confident about travelling overseas than their parents. They are exploring by train, visiting historic houses, touring the countryside, staying in boutique hotels and buying heritage goods. 100,000 Chinese tourists visited Edinburgh Castle in 2014.

They’re travelling far and wide too; Morocco saw a tripling of Chinese tourists after it removed visa restrictions in 2016. India is rising up the popularity charts, and polar cruises have recently been in vogue.

Shopping, eating and drinking

While Chinese millennials rarely make a choice of destination based on shopping options, they will still include time for shopping in their itinerary. Luxury and heritage goods are a big draw, with Chinese millennial luxury travellers allocating US$34,000 on holiday shopping. Additionally according to research conducted by MasterCard, about 2/3 of Chinese millennials favour Western brands over Asian ones. Therefore, shopping is highly appealing for Chinese millennials visiting Europe.

What do millennials choose to eat when travelling? On the one hand, young Chinese tourists like to try the local cuisines of their chosen destination – being more curious and open-minded than their elders. This is mixed with familiar foods with a traditional Chinese hot pot being highly regarded. However, unlike older Chinese tourists, a buzzing social life means Chinese millennials rarely spend more than one hour dining.

Experiential and luxury travel

Chinese investment of US$40million has been earmarked to build a luxury base camp on Mount Everest, aiming to capture a millennial market which increasingly prizes experiences. Unique or truly unusual experiences are attractive for their scarcity – and even more compelling if they provide great content for WeChat or Weibo. Experiences ranging from underwater hotel rooms and restaurants in the Maldives to short breaks to Iceland have proven popular recently.

And for Chinese millennials, experiential travel does not have to be cheap. WildChina ran a ‘luxury hike’ up Mount Kilimanjaro in 2015. There were 10 customers, 72 porters and 7 chefs.

Trends in Chinese millennial travel

Research for Melia hotels in 2016 found that hotel choice is very important for this segment, with millennials looking for room condition, service, location, high-tech facilities, and design and style in that order when deciding where to stay. Unsurprisingly, speedy Wifi is vital; this group spends 27 hours/week online on average.

Top destinations in 2016 included Seoul, Bangkok, Tokyo, Paris and the Maldives, with London and the UK sprinting up the popularity charts thanks to the favourable exchange rate in the second half of last year. In more familiar destinations, Chinese millennials are discovering new regions and cities driven by a search for novelty, authentic experiences and a desire for compelling content for WeChat and Weibo.

Recent years have even seen the emergence of ‘lung cleansing trips’ as millennials sought fresh air destinations from exotic Thai islands to chilly Iceland to escape China’s noxious smog levels.

The future of Chinese millennial travel

Over half of Chinese millennials plan to holiday for longer periods and spend more money on travel in the future. A recent study by the Singapore Tourist Board estimates that Chinese millennials will soon spend upwards of US$14,000 on travel annually. Luxury millennial tourists already average around US$65,000 on travel annually.

Millennials want their families to share in their international travel experiences too. ‘Family reunion’ and multi-generational trips are on the rise as children want to spend quality time with their families on overseas holidays. Unsurprisingly, these large family groups form very attractive prospects for destinations, hotels and visitor attractions.

Are you ready to attract 300 million Chinese millennials to your destination, visitor attraction or hotel? In next week’s blog, we will discuss some of the best ways to market to them.


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Chinese students in the UK: a missed tourism opportunity?

China is the world’s biggest source of international students and it’s estimated that nearly 1 million Chinese are currently studying overseas.  Formerly the preserve of the elite – President Li Xinping’s own daughter studied at Harvard – overseas study is increasingly affordable to China’s growing middle class, who may make considerable sacrifices to grant their only child a foreign university education.  1 in 6 overseas students is Chinese, and yet the tourism potential of this group in the UK has hardly begun to be explored.

It’s estimated that nearly 1 million Chinese are currently studying abroad, and China’s Ministry of Education reports that over 500,000 Chinese went overseas to study in 2015 alone.  In the same year the 58,000 Chinese enrolling for their first year at UK universities outnumbered the total number of students from the 27 countries of the EU doing the same.  And while they are usually embarking upon their overseas adventure entirely independently, a few are even accompanied by their (‘tiger’) mothers in an intercontinental version of helicopter parenting.

Chinese overseas students are fueling a property boom too.  In some areas of California, the majority of new-build housing is bought by Chinese, and total Chinese real estate purchases in the USA were valued at US$110bn in 2015. Whispers abound that London’s new build luxury housing stock is being snapped up by Chinese purchasers – and while that may be the case, only one London university makes the top 10 by Chinese student numbers.

The educational and cultural lure of Liverpool and Manchester

Chinese students make up around 4% of the student body in the UK.  A strong academic tradition and established university system combine with history and Royal glamour to tempt Chinese undergraduates to the Land of Fish and Chips.  Perennial favourite Sherlock Holmes plays a part too, not least because his latest impersonator Curly Foo (as Benedict Cumberbatch is known in Mandarin) sits squarely within the tradition of the English gentleman.

The perhaps surprising geographical spread of Chinese students in the UK sees a preference for universities in the Midlands and the North, with the universities of Liverpool and Manchester the top draws. The capital has only one representative, University College of London, in the top 10 by number of Chinese students.

A missed tourism opportunity?

Little attention so far has been paid to the significant tourism opportunity posed by Chinese students studying in the UK. This is perhaps surprising given their numbers, average length of stay of 2-4 years and curiosity to visit attractions in their host country.  We asked Mei Si, a student at Brighton University, for her insight into UK-based Chinese students’ travel.

One potentially lucrative aspect of Chinese students’ travel is the trip made by their parents for graduation, which usually takes place in the June to July or December to January period. This is the most likely time for Chinese parents to visit their offspring studying overseas and they’re keen to see the sights of the UK, on trips which can last from a few days to a couple of months. The Chinese student organises and books the trip which is likely to include some traditional sights such as Big Ben and luxury shops, but there is also space for other destinations – providing the Chinese student is aware of them.

Chinese students, like their home-based counterparts, are greatly influenced by reviews and recommendations in Chinese media and social media. Reaching Chinese students, even once in the UK, depends on cultivating positive coverage in Chinese media. The unexpected success of Brighton’s Regency Seafood Restaurant underlines the enormous returns which can come from just one celebrity endorsement in China, and small product adaptations, for instance Mandarin signage, information and audioguides, can make a big difference when it comes to garnering a following in China.

We can help to promote your product in China and raise your profile on social media. Contact us for a chat – we’d love to hear from you.


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An insight into the travel of Chinese students living in the UK

Guest blog by Mei Si, a Chinese student at the University of Brighton.

Do parents visit during the year?

June – July, and December – January are the hot seasons for Chinese parents to visit their children’s graduation ceremonies. Chinese parents are more likely to visit the UK only once in their time at university for their children’s graduation ceremony. They normally stay around few days to two months. It depends on their work time.

How do Chinese students book their flight to their UK Universities?

There are two main ways for Chinese students to book their flights to their Universities: Chinese travel agencies and airlines. Baidu, tuniu and qyer are some of the most popular travel agencies in China, although there are a wide range of international travel agency websites in the market. Chinese students, however seem more comfortable to use the websites they are familiar with.

Do they stay in hotels booked from China? What do they do when they get to UK?

When it comes to travel abroad, Chinese parents tend to rely on their children about organising travel plan because of the language barrier and the cultural differences between China and the UK. Chinese students would usually organise hotels, flights as well as travel plans for their parents on Chinese travel agency websites. These websites occasionally offer some fixed package deals to attract customers e.g. a 14 day UK trip including around tickets, 13 night hotels and some UK attractions’ discount tickets.

In addition, one of the features of these websites are blogs of travellers who share their unique travel plans about where they shop, eat and visit in the UK. Also, there are some recommendations about hotels and flights. It can give the consumers some ideas about where to bring their parents to visit.

It is a must to visit all the attractions and main shopping centres in the UK (Big Ben, London Bridge, British Museum, Oxbridge Universities, Oxford Bicester Village, London Burberry outlet etc) but always with their children. Parents who have children studying in the UK would definitely visit.

Considerations when choosing places to visit

When considering places, price is not the most important factor. Reviews and recommendations in Chinese have far greater reach.

In terms of eating out, Chinese families visiting would often eat from Chinese restaurants, as many do not like the typical dishes served, especially the cold dishes, and would rather eat familiar foods.

Despite this, visiting Chinese families would often try food recommended in blogs and reports, including famous establishments like Burger & Lobster, Duck & Waffle, both in London and Riddle & Finns in Brighton.

In conclusion, it seems that Chinese students’ preferences and advice from Chinese travel agencies’ blogs are the main factors which influence Chinese parents’ travel plans in the UK.


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