Forward flight booking data showed that bookings from China to the UK were up 24% from Wednesday 30 January to Tuesday 12 February, compared to the period when Chinese New Year fell last year. Longer term forward booking data shows that bookings from China to the UK were up 31% from January to June this year compared to the same period in 2018.
VisitBritain is expecting 483,000 visits from China in 2019, up 43% on 2017, with Chinese visitors expected to spend more than £1 billion this year, up 50%, moving it well into the UK’s top 10 markets.
Chinese New Year is a prime time to travel for the Chinese and the UK is gearing up to host some of the largest celebrations outside of Asia. Events include three days of celebrations in Liverpool, parades in Manchester, festivals and performances in Birmingham and Leeds to a street parade from Charing Cross to Chinatown in London and the first ever Chinese New Year festival in Edinburgh.
VisitBritain Director Patricia Yates said:
"We want the UK to be the number one destination for travellers 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.
“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.
“With 2019 being the Chinese Year of the Pig we also have an added opportunity, through the rising popularity and profile of iconic British brands such as Peppa Pig in China, to connect with millions of potential visitors to the UK and promote associated visitor attractions, destinations and experiences.”
Peppa Pig was recently named as a ‘super brand’ by e-commerce giant Tmall in recognition of the character’s growing popularity in China.
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. For every 22 visits from China one job is created in the tourism industry.
Tourism is worth £127 billion to the UK economy, creating jobs and boosting economic growth across its nations and regions.
Notes to editors:
• Forward flight bookings from ForwardKeys correct as at 13 January 2019 for Chinese New Year bookings, and as at 31 December 2018 for the long term bookings.
How the UK is celebrating Chinese New Year:
• In Birmingham, celebrations will be held across the city and at Birmingham Airport. The main celebration will take place on Sunday 10 February in the Arcadian Centre, with entertainment including traditional dancing, fireworks, Chinese food stalls and activities for all the family. Passengers at Birmingham Airport on Tuesday 5 February will also enjoy a special performance of lion dancing as well as entertainment, activities and offers from retailers in the terminal.
• Edinburgh will host its first ever Chinese New Year festival, with two weeks’ worth of celebrations including special events at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh Zoo and the Royal Botanic Gardens. The festival will run from Saturday 2 until Sunday 17 February.
• Leeds will host a series of special events from Saturday 26 January until Tuesday 5 February. The Leeds Chinese Community School will welcome 70 young artists from Guangzhou, China for a festivity of traditional dancing, music and culture and a spectacle of Chinese performing arts will be on show at the Halifax Theatre including daring acrobatics, Kung-Fu and an 18 meter dragon dance.
• In Liverpool, three days of celebrations will take place across the city from Friday 8 to Sunday 10 February, marking the 20th anniversary of Liverpool’s twinning of cities with Shanghai, with displays of Chinese culture and dancing following the story of a little girl and a pig on their travels from Shanghai to Liverpool. Traditional celebrations will take place on Sunday in Great George Square with street performances, a parade, food stalls and souvenirs. The city centre streets will also be lit up with thousands of Chinese lanterns from the 28 January.
• London events will take place on Sunday 10 February and include a street parade from Charing Cross to Chinatown in a spectacular celebration with Chinese lanterns, street food and all day performances, including stage shows across the West End.
• Manchester will host a four day weekend from Thursday 7 to Sunday 10 February. In St Ann’s Square street markets and a giant piglet art installation will be on view while Albert Square will see a 175-foot dragon street parade. Families can also immerse themselves into fun and learning at the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art.