The International Passenger Survey (IPS) was suspended on 16 March 2020 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic until the start of 2021. The ONS have made every effort to produce high-quality estimates for the periods when IPS data is not being collected but have not been able to produce a full set of results. See the 2020 inbound page for more information. Data for 2021 and 2022 was also impacted by COVID-19, more information can be found on the About IPS page.

Due to the above, the latest full year IPS data below is from 2019. You can access data detailed data from 2020 onwards on the latest annual page.

Visitor characteristics

  • Chinese visitors tend to be younger than the average visitor to the UK: 43% of visits from China were made by people aged 16-34 years old in 2019
  • Those visiting Britain from China are more likely than average to be making their first visit: only 29% of the holidaymakers from China departing the UK in 2015 (excluding British expats) had already visited the UK within the past 10 years
  • Almost all holiday visitors from China are Chinese nationals
  • 78% of departing visitors from China (excluding British expats) were ‘extremely likely’ to recommend Britain for a visit in 2017

Popular activities

Dining in a restaurant

Sightseeing of Famous Buildings/ Monuments

Went Shopping

Global context

International tourism expenditure (US$bn)254.6
Global rank for international tourism expenditure1
Number of outbound visits incl. Hong Kong and Macao (m)104.2
Number of outbound visits excl. Hong Kong and Macao (m)74.8
Most visited destination overallHong Kong
Most visited destination overall (excl. Hong Kong and Macao)Thailand
Most visited destination in Western EuropeFrance

Key demographic and economic data

Population (m)1,444.7
GDP per capita PPP (US$)17,689
Annual average GDP growth over past decade (%)6.7
Annual GDP growth (%)8.1

Inbound visits to Britain from China

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Number of visits

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Total expenditure (GBP)

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Total nights spent

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Average length of stay (Nights)


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Average spend per visit (GBP)

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What the Chinese think about Britain

  • Chinese perceptions of Britain dropped in the 2021 Anholt Nation Brands Index, ranking it tenth overall compared to 60 nations; a reduction of 9 ranks compared to 2020. However, Britain was ranked fourth for 'contemporary culture'
  • The Chinese associate Britain highly with ‘museums’, and also 'films', 'opera', and 'music'
  • The Chinese expect that a trip to Britain would be 'romantic' and 'relaxing'
  • Key motivators of holidays include ‘enjoying the beauty of the landscape’, ‘feeling connected to nature’ and ‘having fun and laughter’, with Australia considered the ‘best place’ to indulge in all three

Caring for visitors

  • It is important to appreciate cultural differences
  • Visitors appreciate ‘support’ in the form of Chinese language facilities (signage, Mandarin-speaking staff, Chinese TV channels, for example)
  • Spicy food is a favourite, and if the younger and more aflluent Chinese travellers are more exposed to the Western culture and food, there is still a preference for Chinese food among many
  • Mobile payments are becoming more and more popular in China, and travellers appreciate being able to use those abroad as well

The leisure & travel trade

  • If the FIT (Free and Independent Travel) segment keeps growing, travel agents still play a vital role in China, especially among the first-time long-haul travellers for their convenience and help they provide on language barriers or visa processes
  • There are 200+ recognised travel agents under the ‘Approved Destination Status’ agreement in China: they are the only agents who can process leisure ADS visa applications, and thus operate leisure tours
  • If visiting the trade in China it is important to take an interpreter/guide, to prepare business cards to exchange, and to be punctual and well-prepared

Access to Britain from China

Weekly aircraft departures86
Weekly seat capacity23,191
Airports with direct routes in China13
Airports with direct routes in Britain4
  • In 2019, the highest share of departing seats were from the Beijing to London Heathrow route, with a 30% share
  • Out of all the airlines to operate the China to Britain route in 2019, Air China served the most departing seats
  • In 2019, two additional airports began serving routes to the UK: Beijing Daxing International and Zhengzhou
  • Weekly aircraft departures increased by 23% in 2019, compared to 2018
  • In 2019, the highest rate of flight departures took place in July-September
  • The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic led to a 78% reduction in direct seat capacity from China to the UK in 2020, and 2021 was 95% behind pre-COVID levels
  • Departing Britain for China by air incurs an Air Passenger Duty of £84 in economy class
  • Visitors from China require a visa to visit Britain. Since 2016 a scheme automatically upgrades Chinese applications for a six-month standard visa to a two-year multi-entry one, at the same cost (£100)