Chinese travel KOL visits the UK

In May 2018, we were delighted to welcome the influential Chinese blogger, Liu Huan, to the UK on a media trip. Huan is an illustrator and photographer who graduated from the China Academy of Art.

We worked with nine partners on Huan’s itinerary to make the trip as fulfilling as possible, including VisitBrighton, London & Partners, Historic Royal Palaces, The View from the Shard, City Cruises, Royal Museums Greenwich, Household Cavalry Museum, English Heritage, and RHS Wisley Gardens.

The seven-day itinerary covered many of the UK’s most essential attractions. Huan immersed herself in the fun and frolics of the Brighton Festival, visited the main attractions of the city and took to the countryside at the Seven Sisters Country Park. In London, she discovered the lived history of Tower of London, made friends with the Queen’s Horses at the Household Cavalry Museum, took a City Cruise down the Thames, saw the breathtaking View from the Shard, enjoyed the Royal Wedding in Kensington Palace’s gardens, explored the exotic delights of London’s Chinatown, and had thrilling day trips out to Stonehenge and RHS Wisley Gardens.


We were thrilled with the results of this project and the huge success of Huan’s unique approach to blogging. Throughout the trip, Huan shared her experiences via posts on her WeChat for her friends and family to see, and Weibo for her 49,000+ followers. She published 17 posts on both her WeChat and Weibo, each including a selection of stunning on-location photographs. Huan adds a personal touch to many of these photographs by illustrating her cartoon self into them; cartoon Huan can be seen frolicking through RHS Wisley’s beautiful Gardens and gazing out at London’s picturesque night sky from The Shard’s Open Air Skydeck.

Huan wrote and published an extensive article about the trip on Mafengwo, one of China’s most popular review sites, as well as Ctrip Mobile, Qyer, and Autohome. In the month after publishing her blog, she amassed an additional 10,000 Weibo followers; clearly, Chinese internet users enjoyed her coverage.

On 20th July, Huan’s blog reached the home page of Ctrip Mobile. Five days later on 25th July, the blog made it to the front page of Qyer BBS, a place reserved for the best Chinese travel blogs. Qyer BBS also wrote about Huan’s incredible illustrations in a Weibo post which was shared to their 2.86 million followers to enjoy.

As of August 2018, the blog’s total views have reached over 37,000 across the four platforms, and it has over 750 likes. More than 350 users have saved the blog for future reference , to help inspire them for their next trip abroad.

If you are interested in Chinese KOL trips, please contact us for a chat.

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Explaining Chinese Payment Systems – What’s the fuss about?

Explaining Chinese Payment Systems – What’s the fuss about?

Chinese mobile payment systems are more than just a modern convenience – they have a considerable impact on China’s travel and tourism industry.

As we know, Chinese travellers enjoy travelling as conveniently as possible, and they dislike being overwhelmed by a destination’s cultural difference.

One way a destination can demonstrate a strong “China Welcome” is by allowing visitors to purchase goods and services using popular Chinese payment systems – in particular WeChat Pay and Alipay. Destinations which accept these payment systems are a step ahead of the rest in streamlining the shopping experience for Chinese visitors travelling abroad.

This article aims to explain developments undergone by different Chinese payment systems, their similarities and differences, and their importance to marketing a destination or attraction in the Chinese market.

Mobile payment systems are in-demand…

In a recent interview with our Beijing Director Vivienne Song, I asked her why mobile payment systems are so important to Chinese consumers. Vivienne told me that, ultimately, it comes down to the convenience and ease-of-use they provide.

Recent research conducted by Nielsen in partnership with Alipay found that if given the option, 90% of Chinese tourists would use mobile payment systems overseas. Most glaringly, 91% of Chinese tourists indicated that the widespread availability of mobile payments abroad would encourage them to spend more. This is certainly something destinations and venues should keep in mind when marketing to the Chinese.

Chinese tourists love using mobile apps to make holidays more convenient. Mafengwo recently conducted a report asking 3,500 Chinese tourists how they use Chinese apps during their travels. According to results, over 85% of the subjects constantly use their phone while travelling, averaging out at six hours a day. If the Chinese are this attached to their mobile phones, why draw them away to make payments?

…But they are not yet widely accommodated

In 2017, mobile payments yielded an extraordinary total sum of $32 trillion USD, according to the People’s Bank of China. However, since mobile payments are not yet widely accepted outside China, the usage rate of mobile payments by Chinese outbound tourists abroad is currently lower than that of cash and bank card payments at 65%. This is still significantly higher than the usage rate among non-Chinese tourists, which stands at 11%. All in all, destinations should look to accommodate Chinese mobile payment apps to ensure the widespread availability of Chinese tourists’ preferred payment method.

WeChat Pay and Alipay – what’s the difference?

A relative latecomer to the mobile payments market when compared with Alibaba’s Alipay, Tencent’s WeChat Pay launched in 2013, came to Europe in 2017 with a number of approved merchants, and has rapidly grown since. The service aims to be as convenient as possible, allowing users to pay for an endless variety of goods and services both on and offline. WeChat Pay borrows Alipay’s model for offline purchasing by using system generated QR codes – it’s common to see codes for both platforms at points of sale.

Conversely, with around 520 million users, Alipay is China’s most popular mobile payment system. The service launched in 2004 as the Chinese alternative to PayPal, over a decade before WeChat Pay. Alipay allows its users to make payments on China’s largest e-commerce marketplaces, Taobao and Tmall, by linking their bank card to the app. It shares much of the same functionality with WeChat, enabling users to make payments using QR codes, and both services offer no transactions fees except for large withdrawals. Both WeChat and Alipay control over 90% of China’s $5.5 trillion mobile payment market.

WeChat Pay’s most notable feature is ‘red envelope’, which allows users to virtually send money to family and friends on special occasions. Reportedly, 768 million people sent out red envelopes in celebration of the Lunar New Year back in February 2018, 55% of China’s billion-plus population.

A huge difference between the two mobile payment systems is WeChat Pay’s integration into China’s most popular social media platform, WeChat, which recently passed one billion monthly active users. WeChat’s popularity is bolstered by how it comes pre-installed on 90% of Chinese smartphones, and every WeChat user has access to WeChat Pay as long as their account is linked with their bank. This has had an evident effect on Alipay’s growth – Alibaba’s market share fell by nearly half at the end of 2017, while Tencent witnessed growth of more than a third.

Alipay has a transaction limit in Europe of  40,000 euros, where WeChat Pay’s limit is 10,000. For most shopping transactions, that’s more than enough, but the big spenders may opt for Alipay.

So, in my opinion, the main reason WeChat Pay trumps Alipay is that people don’t want to leave the app they spend their life on, WeChat. They expect to do everything via WeChat – messaging, booking tickets, work communications, doctor appointments, and, of course, pay for things.

Similar developments

Some retailers have been adopting a variety of Chinese payment methods to ensure the needs of Chinese travellers are fully accommodated. Alongside their 200-plus Mandarin speaking staff, and the redevelopment of their jewellery department to align more with Chinese consumer interests, Harrods accepts both WeChat Pay and Alipay payments.

Furthermore, they both recently formed partnerships with tax refund companies, allowing for Chinese tourists to use either mobile payment method to receive rebates on their purchases. WeChat now offers instant tax refunds for Chinese tourists departing from Madrid airport, and Alipay introduced a similar service for Chinese tourists returning to Changi airport in Singapore.

Both payment methods have begun their expansion in Western markets. In 2017, WeChat Pay accounted for 29% of all Starbucks transactions, and back in November, Camden Market began to promote rollout of WeChat Pay across over 1,000 shops and restaurants to encourage Chinese shoppers. Following the successful integration of Alipay throughout Munich airport in 2016, WeChat Pay is now also accepted.

It was recently announced that the US hotel giant Marriott is preparing to accept Alipay mobile payments in around a quarter of its hotels globally. This complements their existing “Li Yu” loyalty initiative, which by introducing conveniences such as Mandarin speaking staff, hopes to make Chinese guests feel more comfortable staying in Marriott hotels.

More recently, Chinese visitors to the world’s largest shopping mall in Dubai can now use Alipay for their various shopping, dining, and leisure attractions. This development succeeds a continued effort by The Dubai Mall to accommodate the needs of Chinese visitors with Mandarin mall guides and Chinese helpdesk staff.

So… WeChat or Alipay?

Perhaps for some Western corporations, the fact WeChat Pay is fully integrated within one of the world’s most popular social media platforms has given it the edge over Alipay. It was recently announced that Walmart had dropped Alipay in favour of WeChat Pay for its 400-plus stores in western China. When asked to comment on the decision, Walmart simply remarked “WeChat Pay is widely accepted and trusted in China.”

By tapping into its social media influence, WeChat Pay is looking to rollout its platform internationally to feed the growing demand among Chinese outbound tourists. As Grace Yin, WeChat Pay Director for Overseas Operation, commented

“As mobile payment is increasingly welcomed by mainland Chinese outbound tourists, WeChat Pay plans to constantly invest in its cross-border business, with the aim of duplicating the domestic WeChat lifestyle overseas”.

This reinforcement of ‘domestic WeChat lifestyle overseas’ emphasises the urge among Chinese tourists to rely on familiar Chinese apps to help them vault over language and cultural barriers.

However, the decision is a bit like ‘should we take Visa or MasterCard’. The answer is that you should be taking both.

But we also have UnionPay – isn’t that enough?

UnionPay, the world’s largest bank card service, lags behind WeChat Pay and Alipay in terms of mobile payments, having first introduced their QR code-based payment method in 2017. While nowhere near as popular as WeChat Pay and Alipay, it still boasts a huge user base – in participating with 165 banks, every Chinese bank account is linked with UnionPay. UnionPay’s QR code-based payment method witnessed huge growth in volume over the Chinese New Year holiday period this year – specifically a 150% year-on-year increase.

UnionPay has issued over 5.4 billion credit or debit cards, however due to their magnetic strip and security pin system, they are considered less secure than WeChat Pay and Alipay. UnionPay is widely accepted internationally, from card purchases to ATM withdrawals, and it can process most world currencies.

However, at its heart, UnionPay is a credit card and the market has moved on to mobile payments, while UnionPay runs to keep up.

How does Apple Pay plan to compete?

While Apple’s products remain universally popular, its Apple Pay service, despite continued efforts, is having difficulties grabbing the attention of Chinese consumers. Due to WeChat Pay and Alipay’s market dominance, Apple Pay has seen limited success despite the estimated 243 million iPhone users in China. According to Bloomberg, a mere 1% of a Chinese bank’s 10 million online banking customers had the service activated.

Perhaps Chinese consumers are all too familiar with using WeChat Pay and Alipay’s QR code systems to consider other payment methods. To pay with Apple Pay, customers hold down their iPhone near a contactless reader and scan their fingerprint with Touch ID, which confirms the payment. This requires an expensive installation of a Near Field Communication (NFC) antenna – there is little incentive for Chinese shopfronts to install this when WeChat Pay and Alipay compatible QR codes can be cheaply displayed.

Submitting to the demand of Chinese payment systems, Apple recently rolled-out Alipay across mainland China’s 41 Apple retail stores, and WeChat Pay users can make purchases on Apple’s App Store.

Where does this leave us?

Mobile payment systems make the travel experience for Chinese outbound tourists far less daunting and more convenient. If widely implemented, they should result in increased revenue due to their ease-of-use and familiarity.

As China outbound tourism numbers continue to rise, displaying a “China Welcome” is becoming more important. A small merchant, restaurant or hotel accepting a Chinese payment method instantly gives the message that they welcome Chinese guests. For a small business, it’s a lot more realistic than employing Mandarin speaking staff. For larger retailers, there is the benefit of increase spend per transaction. The mobile payment apps show what the user is paying in RMB, and shoppers are more confident in spending more as they know exactly what they’ll be charged back home.

It’s also important to consider that technology like mobile payments can go out of date very quickly as the next best thing comes along. If you’re looking to enter this market, our advice is to find a middle man with an app that they will develop as things move along (so you don’t have to).

At China Travel Outbound, we like to make life easy so have teamed up with specialists, Globepay, to offer mobile payment solutions to our clients.  Their solutions include both Alipay AND WeChat Pay, so now there is no need to choose between the two.

If you are interested in Chinese mobile payment methods and how they could benefit your business, we would be more than happy to talk you through the process. Please feel free to contact us for advice.

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Photo by Jonas Leupe on Unsplash

Introducing Kew Gardens to the Chinese Travel Trade

sales mission for kew gardenChina Travel Outbound’s sales missions are tailored to individual clients to ensure the meetings have the potential to encourage future sales calls, and further develop the client’s presence in the Chinese travel and tourism market. Our clients are privately transported and accompanied to each pre-qualified meeting by our Beijing team, who also provide English interpretation and translation throughout the visit.

We work with our clients throughout the entire process to ensure their visit is convenient and hassle-free. From assisting them with their letter of introduction needed to obtain a Chinese visa, to translating sales presentations and printing Chinese business cards, our Beijing team go the extra mile to make sure our clients get the most out of their visit.sales mission for kew garden

It was our pleasure to host Daryl Bennett from Kew Gardens on a sales mission to Beijing in March 2018. We organised a number of meetings with key tour operators with potential to sell the Kew Gardens product, including Caissa Touristic, Ctrip, and Sparkle Tour (see above).

“The trip was great and Vivienne couldn’t have been more helpful” – Daryl Bennett, Travel Trade Sales and Marketing Manager

Following the mission, Kew Gardens received a full report with contact details and learnings from each meeting, and action points for follow-up.

The client praised the help he received from our Beijing team, led by Vivienne Song, in making the sales mission beneficial and valuable. As a result of the meetings, Kew Gardens gained more of an idea of the events and attractions that are of most interest to the Chinese tourism market, and the different kinds of promotional images to use to maximise publicity.

If you would like to find out more about sales missions and how they could help your organisation develop within the Chinese market, please contact us for a chat.

Seven UKinbound members collaborate successfully on Chinese press trip

UKinbound member, China Travel Outbound, has successfully collaborated on a major Chinese press trip with six other members of the association. In early 2018, we started conversations with our contacts at National Geographic Traveller Magazine China about visiting the UK to write a 14-page feature to coincide with the forthcoming Royal Wedding.

The senior writer at Nat Geo is Mr Han, a fan of art history and of the UK. We embarked on a project to bring Mr Han, a videographer, and photographer, and Sarah our Chinese PR Director, over to England to write a feature about Royal Britain.

The team went on from London to Dover to see the grandiose White Cliffs and Dover Castle, England’s largest castle. The trip concluded with three nights in Brighton, organised in collaboration with VisitBrighton. Here, they visited the party palace of another prince – the Royal Pavilion, went to a pub, saw the Seven Sisters, and even stayed out til the wee hours at the student night at one of the seafront clubs.

We organised exclusive interviews with the museum curators, directors and historical experts to ensure that the resulting feature was full of colour and engaging stories about Britain’s royal heritage.

National Geo magazine press article


The article hit the newsstands before the Royal Wedding and the associated social media was released on the happy day. With so many partners involved, this was a complex press trip to organise, but the results made it all worthwhile. The feature ran to 22 pages with an overall value of £737,000.

The magazine receives a circulation of 977,000 copies per month, and has a readership of 2,931,000.

Social Media

National Geo magazine press trip Weibo post

The trip received fantastic coverage on National Geographic Traveler China’s official WeChat and Weibo accounts. WeChat has over 1 billion active monthly users, and at the time of writing, the National Geographic Traveler Weibo account has 630,000+ followers. Evidently, these posts had huge potential reach.

Video Coverage

The videographer’s beautiful work is showcased in a video of the trip, which featured on various mainstream Chinese video websites under official National Geographic Traveler accounts, including Tencent, Tudou, and Youku.

See the video below:

We were delighted with the results of this project, and it was great to see it all come together to promote Britain in such a prestigious title.

Click here to view the National Geographic Traveler Magazine China Royal Britain feature.

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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What will the EU-China Tourism Year bring?

Are Chinese tourists the new adventurers?

What will the EU-China Tourism Year bring?

An exciting opportunity for European tour operators is on our doorstep. How should we prepare for Europe’s improved collaboration with the Chinese travel market?

It’s finally here, and it’s about time

There has been an Australia-China year of tourism, as well as a US-China year, but finally it is the turn of Europe. Are they just gimmicks, or do they make a real difference?

In what has been an eventful year for Chinese tourism, upcoming international partnerships, such as the EU-China Tourism Year, will help to further promote growth in Chinese outbound tourist numbers.

The EU-China Tourism Year is an official declaration given to the promotion of bilateral cooperation between European countries and China, which will occur throughout 2018. It presents an exciting opportunity for European tourism businesses and operators looking to expand their operations in the Chinese outbound travel market to promote their brand on a global scale and seek new partnerships. The first series of business-to-business talks brought about by the ECTY will take place at Beijing’s China Outbound Travel & Tourism Market in April 2018.

Reported figures vary, but the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute (COTRI) found that Chinese outbound tourism grew by 7% in the first half of 2017, from 64 million in 2016 to 69 million. This shows that Chinese tourists are travelling further afield. Indeed, while tourism to the Greater China region only grew by 1%, the rest of the world saw 14% more Chinese outbound travellers visiting their shores in the first half of 2017.

The potential benefits that the ECTY could bring to European travel and tourism companies complements the exciting predictions about the Chinese outbound travel market in 2018. COTRI estimates that the number of Chinese tourists travelling to destinations outside of Greater China will rise by 10% next year to 86 million. If correct, Chinese travel to destinations outside of Greater China will then hold the majority in the market, representing 56% of overall trips made.

As such, the ECTY seems to be happening at the right time. The Chinese outbound tourism market is increasingly becoming dominated by free and independent travellers (FITs), who are willing to forge their own adventures to discover authentic experiences, unlike their organised group travel equivalents. This has opened-up new opportunities in the market to appeal to this rising subsection of outbound travellers. Furthermore, relaxed visa restrictions, more direct flight connections, and the opening of visa application centres shows European countries are becoming flexible to deal with the expanding Chinese travel market.

Make the effort

Europe should grasp the opportunity to welcome more Chinese tourists with open arms. Driven by the rise of middle-class households, China has become the largest source of tourism expenditure, which is expected to grow by 10.9% from 2017 to 2022. A lot of their money is spent in duty-free shops. Recent figures show that 41% of Chinese travellers buy skincare-related products in duty-free and travel-retail, compared with 25% for the average global buyer.

Increased cooperation with China has already helped improve visitor rates at British attractions. In June, Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG) announced they received a 74% increase year-on-year in Chinese visitors. Following the efforts made in marketing their museums in China and improving their “China welcome”, RMG’s dedication to attracting the Chinese market was recognised at ITB China in Shanghai, where they were awarded a Chinese Tourist Welcome Award for Service Quality.

Be more like Switzerland

The ECTY won’t mark the first time Europe and China has formed an alliance to promote tourism. The ECTY will succeed 2017’s China-Switzerland Year of Tourism, which demonstrated an increased effort by both parties to further encourage overseas travel. Both countries encouraged bilateral communication and cooperation through exchange activities that enhanced mutual understanding of each country’s culture, economy, and trade.

In 2015, China became the fourth largest outbound tourist market for Switzerland, behind Germany, the US, and the UK. Switzerland’s Deputy Head of Mission Alain Gaschen suggests improved China outbound travel was due to relaxed visa restrictions, which encouraged the widespread issuing of long-term and multi-entry visas. Switzerland has also made it convenient for Chinese tourists to obtain visas, with a quick-visa approval process that takes only two days.

The China-Switzerland Year of Tourism recently held its closing ceremony in Lausanne, which is due to host the 2020 Youth Olympic Games. Since China will host the 2022 Winter Olympics, bilateral cooperation in the winter sports market was beneficial. As a result, the Swiss have been developing their ski resorts to become more accommodating of Chinese tourists by providing one-off experience days catered to beginners and lessons in Chinese.

This collaboration has delivered benefits for future EU-China cooperation. Reportedly, a Chinese tourism official claimed 2017 saw 1.2 million two-way visits between China and Switzerland, an increase of 12% from 2016. Air China recently launched a new service from Beijing to Zurich, which marks Air China’s first flight to the Swiss city since the service was initially discontinued in 1999. Likewise, the number of flights connecting China and Switzerland has increased to forty per week.

Early ECTY-related collaborations have begun between China and Italy, where the ECTY will hold its opening ceremony, in Venice, on the 19th of January. Italy’s Undersecretary of MiBACT Dorina Bianchi hopes this relationship will help promote not only Italy’s “cities of art”, but also the “historical heritage” of its villages. Italy is one of many European countries seeking more potential from the Chinese market, as in the first half of 2017, it evidenced a 15% increase in the number of Chinese visitors compared to 2016.

Put yourself out there

The UK should make the most of the ECTY by capitalising on its opportunities as soon as possible. This is especially considering recent developments which have made the UK more accessible for Chinese tourists.

The recent announcement of an open skies agreements between China and the UK aims to increase connecting flights by 50% to 150 flights per week. In addition, Britain’s north witnessed a 15% rise in Chinese arrival numbers than anticipated this year, with 90,000 passengers travelling from Beijing to Manchester. Chinese visitors are also spending more than ever, specifically an increase of 54% in 2017, largely due to the post-Brexit depreciation of the pound. These are promising developments for the UK inbound tourism market that demonstrate the appeal of attracting more Chinese visitors.

Why would Chinese tourists want to visit the UK?

Football crazy, football mad

The UK remains an appealing destination for Chinese travellers for a plethora of reasons, and sport is certainly a key factor. Alongside China’s desire to convert 300 million Chinese people to winter sports in anticipation of the upcoming 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, it is also pushing to become a world football superpower by 2050. It hopes to have 50 million football players by 2020, as well as 6,000 stadiums or pitches and 50,000 football schools within the next 10 years.

British football is internationally renowned for its world-class teams, and football is already hugely popular in China. More than 350 million Chinese fans watch Premier League games on dedicated football television channels. Indeed, football is Chinese President Xi Jinping’s favourite sport – in 2012, he demonstrated his skills during a state visit to Croke Park Stadium in Dublin, and he visited Manchester City during his last state visit to the UK in 2015. As the home of international football, Britain is an attractive destination for Chinese football enthusiasts.

Glued to the screen

Certain British television shows are hugely popular in China. Research into the influence of foreign entertainment on Chinese youth, conducted by Singapore Management University, found the majority of Chinese television viewers were in favour of a more authentic TV approach, compared to the “predictable plotlines” and “unambiguous characters” found in China’s TV shows.

As such, the hit BBC drama Sherlock was a phenomenon; in 2014, 5 million Chinese viewers watched the Season Three premiere within hours of being uploaded to video platform Youku, the Chinese alternative to YouTube. Furthermore, in 2016, Sherlock’s ‘Abominable Bride’ TV special was screened internationally across China, attracting 1.7 million cinemagoers to its premiere.

As Sherlock builds upon a “Chinese fondness for a storybook version of Britain”, it’s not a stretch to claim many enthusiastic Chinese fans may visit London to see famous landmarks featured on the show, such as the London Eye and St Paul’s Cathedral. St Paul’s provides Chinese visitors with multimedia guides in Mandarin, making this attraction highly accessible. There is also a Sherlock Holmes Museum in London’s Baker Street, which will be the main draw for many enthusiastic Chinese fans.

While an American production, many scenes in Game of Thrones are filmed in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is expecting over 2.3 million visitors next year due to the emerging Chinese market. The Giant’s Causeway welcomed 56,000 Chinese tourists in 2017, 22% more than previous years.

There are other cases where China’s appreciation of England’s cultural heritage shines through. Castle Howard, occasionally used as a setting for historical dramas, such as ITV’s Victoria, saw 250,000 visitors in 2016, and a 256% year-on-year increase of international visitors. Furthermore, the marriage between Taiwanese megastar Jay Chou and Australian model Hannah Quinlivan at Selby Abbey attracted “no fewer than 500 Asian visitors” in the ten days following the event.

Dover Castle has also appeared in a variety of high-profile Hollywood and television productions, from Disney’s fantasy musical Into the Woods, to the BBC’s historical drama Wolf Hall. According to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA), Dover Castle welcomed 333,289 visitors in 2016 – an increase over the previous year. It seems heritage sites featured in popular movies and TV shows remain motivators for Chinese travel to the UK.

The Royal Family is England’s crown jewel

Obviously, we can’t ignore that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Royal Wedding next May will bring an influx of international tourists to Windsor Castle, and the UK in particular. The UK witnessed a ‘tourism boom’ in 2011, welcoming 30.6 million overseas visitors, primarily thanks to the Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton. Reportedly, “almost half of the increase was accounted for by people from Asia, South America and Africa”, and visits from Chinese tourists to the UK rose by a third in 2011 compared to the previous year. As a result, Westminster Abbey saw a 36% increase in its visitor numbers in 2011 compared with 2010, with 1.9 million visits, which for the first time placed the Abbey in ALVA’s top 10 list of the most visited British attractions.

We could certainly expect a similar level of attention for Windsor Castle in the lead up to 2018’s Royal Wedding. Given Markle’s status as a famous American actress, having starred in the popular legal drama Suits, the international appeal of this Royal Wedding is staggering. In addition, like St Paul’s Cathedral, Windsor Castle provides Chinese visitors with a Mandarin multimedia guide, making a visit to the royal palace comfortable and convenient.

Shopping is still an incentive

While ‘authentic travel experiences’ are a huge incentive for Chinese outbound travel, shopping still remains a popular reason to travel abroad. Although the Chinese don’t choose to travel to the UK primarily for shops, they certainly do a lot of shopping while they are here.

Bicester Village, an outlet village based in Oxfordshire, attracts hundreds of thousands of Chinese tourists each year to its luxury brand stores. Reportedly, it rivals Buckingham Place as one of the UK’s most popular attractions, with eight out of ten Chinese tourists visiting the village during their trip. It’s only becoming more popular, as Chinese visitor numbers increased by 34% in 2016 compared to the year before. Chinese tourists visiting Bicester Village are guided by Mandarin signs installed at London’s Marylebone station, and many travel there by tour bus. The village itself targets Chinese consumers with Mandarin speakers, who make up the majority of the sales assistants.

In addition, a £185 million designer outlet village is being constructed in a complete circle around London’s O2 arena. The outlet village, expected to be around 204,000 square feet, will likely encompass over 100 shops and various restaurants. The impact of this new development is likely to be felt by the whole of London’s East and Southeast, and areas such as Greenwich and the Queen Elizabeth Park at Stratford are eagerly awaiting its launch.

Final thoughts

For our end-of-year article last year, our Managing Director, Helena Beard, had this to say about the state of Chinese tourism:

“China operates on a system of relationships and networks, collaboration and cooperation, loyalty to friends and partnerships with colleagues. The easier it is for the Chinese to visit and make these affiliations with the UK, the better our export prospects, the more students will come here to study, and the greater the economic benefits to our tourism industry.

Evidently, the UK and its European neighbours could only benefit from the improved collaboration and cooperation encouraged by the ECTY. This cross-cultural relationship will help develop Europe’s understanding of the Chinese outbound travel market, and the ways in which they could further adapt to accommodate their unique travel needs. This could only be fruitful going forward, and we at China Travel Outbound look forward to tracing the results of this relationship throughout the coming year.

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

Enjoyed this article? Then these may also be of interest to you:

Are Chinese tourists the new adventurers?

The business of sport in China

How to attract Chinese tourists to your destination

Quality has become more important than quantity to Chinese tourists visiting the UK

For the growing number of Chinese FITs, quality and value for money has overtaken packed itineraries and cheap prices, according to Professor Dr. Wolfgang Arlt speaking at the inaugural Chinese Tourism Leaders’ Dinner. Professor Dr. Wolfgang Arlt went on to tell guests that the Chinese are looking for unique experiences that they cannot find in China: gazing at stars, breathing in fresh air, mushroom and blueberry picking, non-fake products and a slice of authentic daily life and culture.  75% of Chinese tourists now believe that travelling is a vital part of life, all of which is great news for UK destinations with a range of niche products.

Co-hosted by PR and representation agency China Travel Outbound and Capela China the event held on the eve of World Travel Market this year, celebrated the growth in Chinese tourism to the UK. The evening was attended by senior executives from key organisations working in the Chinese outbound tourism market, including The Lake District China Forum, VisitBritain, English Heritage, Marketing Manchester, Hainan Airlines and Royal Museums Greenwich.

For further information about China Travel Outbound please visit

For more information about Capela China please visit


– ends –


Editors’ Notes:

China Travel Outbound is a specialist travel PR and Marketing agency with offices in Brighton and Beijing. The agency’s clients include VisitBrighton, Royal Museums of Greenwich, The Roman Baths, Houses of Parliament, and Hard Rock International. For more information, please contact Helena Beard at [email protected]

Capela China delivers training, certification and consultancy services to support UK tourism and retail businesses in the Chinese market. Please contact Gary Grieve at [email protected]

Photo from left to right: Robin Worsnop, Rabbie’s, Helena Beard, China Travel Outbound, Professor Dr Wolfgang Arlt, COTRI, Jennifer Cormack Winander Leisure and Gary Grieve, Capela China.

Chinese-speaking Tourism Marketing Internship



China Travel Outbound is a PR, sales and marketing agency with offices in Brighton and Beijing. We help tourist attractions, destinations, hotels and restaurants promote themselves to the huge market of Chinese tourists who are now choosing to holiday in the UK, Europe and America.

We’re looking for a fluent Mandarin speaker to intern with us! You will receive valuable experience in working in an office and, hopefully, improve your English language skills and build new contacts and networks.

There are 130,000 Chinese students studying in the UK and we want you to help us communicate with them. We are organising a series of VIP weekends for the Presidents and Vice Presidents of the Chinese Student Societies of the UK’s universities. As our intern, you will contact the right people, invite them to participate in the trips, and build a network of ambassadors for our British tourist destination, hotel and attraction clients.

You will need a knowledge of the international student environment, in particular Chinese societies, or a willingness to learn quickly. You need to be able to use Chinese and UK social media.

Fluent Mandarin Chinese is required, Cantonese would also be an advantage.

Job description is available here: Chinese speaking intern for China Travel Outbound

Please send your c.v. and a covering letter telling us why you would be great for the role to [email protected]

Tourism Marketing Intern – 20 hours per week for 10 weeks

We’re hiring! Join a fast growing, award-winning international marketing agency based in Brighton

China Travel Outbound is a PR, sales and marketing agency with offices in Brighton and Beijing. We help tourist attractions, destinations, hotels and restaurants promote themselves to the huge market of Chinese tourists who are now choosing to holiday in the UK, Europe and America.

We’re looking for a recent graduate to intern with us! You will learn lots of useful skills to help boost your career in marketing, PR, or tourism and you will learn all about the biggest travel market in the world, the outbound market from China. You’ll be helping us manage our clients which include attractions like Royal Museums Greenwich, destinations like VisitBrighton, and restaurant chains like Hard Rock Cafe. You’ll also be looking after our social media and writing newsletters, blogs and reports. Great writing skills and a love of the English language are a must for this role.

Strong admin skills, flexibility, an interest in travel marketing and a willingness to learn are all vital for success in this role.

Fluent English (spoken and written) is required. Strong IT, design and social media skills an advantage.

Speaking Mandarin is NOT a requirement. However, it would be a huge plus!

Job description is available here: Job description

Please send your c.v. and a covering letter telling us why you would be great for the role to [email protected]

We’re hiring! Account Executive : Graduate Role in Brighton

Join a fast growing, award-winning international marketing agency based in Brighton

China Travel Outbound is a PR, sales and marketing agency with offices in Brighton and Beijing. We help tourist attractions, destinations, hotels and restaurants promote themselves to the huge market of Chinese tourists who are now choosing to holiday in the UK, Europe and America.

We’ve recently won three new clients and our small team in Kemptown is getting busier. We’re looking for a graduate with at least one year’s experience working in a marketing or agency environment, to come to join us, to learn the business, and to grow with our company. You’ll be helping us manage our clients which include attractions like Royal Museums Greenwich, destinations like VisitBrighton, and restaurant chains like Hard Rock Cafe. You’ll also be looking after our social media and writing newsletters, blogs and reports. Great writing skills and a love of the English language are a must for this role.

You will also need to have the energy and commitment to go out there and represent our agency at events, to pick up the phone to suppliers and clients (some of them in the UK, some in China), and to form relationships with our team in Beijing. Strong admin skills, flexibility, an interest in travel marketing and a willingness to learn are all vital for success in this role.

Fluent English (spoken and written) is required. Strong IT, design and social media skills an advantage.

Speaking Mandarin is NOT a requirement. However, it would be a huge plus!

Job description is available here Account Executive – JD 230317.

Please send your c.v. and a covering letter telling us why you would be great for the role to Helena Beard at [email protected] 

Salary: £15,000 – £16,000 p.a.

Closing Date : 15 May 2017