UK predicts uptick in Chinese visitors

The UK is expecting a boost in visits from China as Chinese New Year approaches on February 5. 

Forward flight-booking data from flight analysis company ForwardKeys showed bookings from China to the UK were up 24 percent from January 30 to February 12 compared to the period when Chinese New Year fell last year. Longer-term forward-booking data shows bookings from China to the UK were up 31 percent from January to June for 2019 compared to the same period in 2018.

VisitBritain is expecting 483,000 visits from China in 2019, up 43 percent from 2017, with Chinese visitors expected to spend more than £1 billion this year, up 50 percent, moving it well into the UK’s top 10 markets. 

Data indicate Chinese perceptions of Britain as a visitor destination are strong. China ranked the UK second out of 50 nations for its overall brand in the 2018 Anholt Nation Brands Index, up two places from 2017, also ranking the UK highly for its vibrant cities and urban attractions. 

Visitors from China are some of the UK’s highest spenders, spending on average £2,059 during their visit, more than three times the all-market visitor average.  

These numbers are valuable for hotel developers looking to capture a lucrative demographic. For example, India's Oyo Rooms is looking to sign deals for as many as 300 independent hotels by the end of 2019, and will spend $53 million to launch the company in 10 British cities over the next 18 months. Currently, Oyo has a presence in 280 cities across China, operating more than 5,000 hotels with 260,000 rooms. Chinese travelers who have stayed in any one of those 5,000 properties will already be familiar with the platform when they visit the UK, making it more likely that they will book an Oyo room in any one of those 10 British cities. 

“We want the UK to be the number-one destination for travelers so it is great to see forward bookings looking strong in the coming weeks and months from China, the world’s most valuable outbound market,” said VisitBritain Director Patricia Yates in a statement. “China is an extremely important market for VisitBritain and we want to provide a world-class experience and welcome for Chinese visitors who travel here. We’re building on the growth we have seen, working with partners such as British Airways and Ctrip to convert the inspiration to visit into bookings and making it easier to visit and explore more of the UK through regional gateways, driving our ambitious plans for growth.”