A Chinese tourist shops in London. Photo: iStock
A Chinese tourist shops in London. Photo: iStock
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Britain is on course for a record-breaking year for inbound Chinese tourists and tourist spending. The weak pound in the wake of the ongoing political uncertainty in the UK will be bringing more visitors from China, with cheaper shopping being a major draw.

Long-haul flight bookings to the UK are up 10% from last year, according to data from travel consultancy ForwardKeys. However, the key source markets that are driving this growth are the US, up 19%, and China, up a whopping 29%. This sets the UK on a path for both a record-breaking summer and year in terms of Chinese arrivals.

While Chinese travelers to the UK are interested in a variety of tourist activities, which certainly includes sightseeing, it seems that luxury shopping is one of the biggest draws. For example, it is estimated that 70% of shoppers visiting Burberry’s flagship store in London are Chinese tourists.

This year’s terror attacks in Britain, especially the one in Manchester, led to some speculation that inbound tourism to the UK would be hampered, but it now seems that they have had little impact.

Instead, a weaker pound means that more Chinese tourists are willing to come to the UK in order to take advantage of lower prices. From the Brexit referendum in June of last year to the present, the value of the pound has dropped from 9.6 yuan to 8.8. This seems to be the chief driver of the dramatic growth of Chinese tourism to the UK.

This is good news for retailers in the UK, as Chinese tourists are notoriously big spenders. Moreover, given the high prices of authentic luxury branded goods in their own country, Chinese tourists often make an effort to shop at luxury retailers abroad.

According to Visit Britain, Chinese tourists to the UK spent an average of £2,000 (US$2,580) during their visits last year. This is actually a sharp drop from 2013, when average spending reached a high of £2,500, but still double the average spending per US visitor.

Arrivals and spending by Chinese tourists dropped last year by 3.4% and 12.4% respectively because of the November 2015 Paris attacks. However, numbers this year are putting Britain on a path to recover from this and surpass expectations.

This article was originally published on Jing Daily.

Mason Hinsdale is a China expert who has done research on modern Chinese business history and consumer culture. He studied in both Taiwan and mainland China and received his master's degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

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