A volatile stock market, downgraded credit rating, and plunging pound may be some of the economic woes plaguing the UK after the Brexit vote, but there is one thing that seems set to go up in the near future: Chinese tourist numbers.
According to a recent report in Shanghai Daily, travel agencies are seeing a surge in Chinese travelers booking tour packages to the UK as travel and shopping in the region are set to become much cheaper. According to Chinese travel agency Shanghai Spring Tour, all of its tour packages to Britain have now been totally booked for the summer. Meanwhile, Ctrip has also seen a jump in bookings to the UK.
“An interesting reason for this increase of London travel for affluent Chinese men is the new trend for bespoke tailoring”, said Pierre Gervois, Publisher of the Shanghai Travelers’ Club (STC) magazine, a digital luxury travel magazine for wealthy Chinese gentlemen. “As London is probably the best city in Europe to get a bespoke suit, a growing number of Chinese gentlemen are going to London to see their tailor – such as Benson & Clegg, for example, and take advantage of the favorable exchange rate as well”, Pierre Gervois added.
With shopping a high travel priority and an acute awareness of where to seek out the best prices of luxury goods and avoid mainland tariffs, Chinese tourists have been known to follow currency fluctuations to get a good deal. This has been one factor in the recent Chinese spending boom in Japan as the weak yen means cheaper prices of luxury goods and premium Japanese brands. When the ruble rapidly plunged in 2014, Chinese travelers and daigou sellers rushed to Russia and cleared out entire luxury boutiques thanks to the cheap prices.
The UK has long been working to attract more Chinese tourists, but its exclusion from the Schengen Area has made the visa application process cumbersome for visitors from China. As groups such as the luxury retailer-led UK-China Visa Alliance have lobbied for easier visa access, the government has made changes such as a two-year multi-entry visa policy for Chinese travelers as well as a partnership with Belgium to grant Chinese visitors with a Belgium-issued Schengen visa access to the UK.
But these efforts for greater EU-related visa access may now be undone, showing it’s not all good news when it comes to Chinese tourism in the post-Brexit UK. UK-Europe package tours could take a hit as participants traveling to both the UK and European countries would have to declare tax-free goods brought from the UK into Europe. This includes not only European countries, but also Ireland, which will now see fewer Chinese tourists entering form the UK.
In the long run, Chinese tourists are risk-averse when it comes to making their travel plans and tend to avoid places seen as politically unstable. The perception of increased political and economic instability could also deter the Chinese real estate buyers who have been flooding to London in recent years.
Source: Jing Daily / TopTier