VisitBritain wins gold award in Beijing for its work in getting businesses in the North of England ‘China-ready’

VisitBritain’s work to increase the welcome and services that Chinese visitors to England experience has been recognised with a gold award in the service quality category of the Chinese Tourist Welcome Awards 2016 held today (Wednesday 13 April) in Beijing.

The award is in recognition of the more than 260 tourism industry professionals from 70 organisations ranging from castles and stately homes, destination management organisations and tour operators, to retailers and attraction providers from across the North of England, who took part in VisitBritain’s China Welcome Training programme held between October 2015 and March 2016.

The programme, run as part of the UK Government’s £10 million Northern Tourism Growth Fund, managed by VisitEngland working with international delivery partner VisitBritain, aimed to inspire and educate local businesses about the Chinese tourism market to drive more international visitors to the North.

The training, led by Cumbria Tourism with training provider CapelaChina delivering the course, considered Chinese tourists’ motivations and expectations when they travel, how businesses can adapt their products and marketing to meet these needs, and the importance of providing services in Chinese, amongst other topics. Ninety per cent of those who took part in the course said they were planning to make changes to their business within six months as a result of the training.

VisitBritain Director Patricia Yates said:                                                                   

China is the world’s largest outbound market and a huge tourism opportunity for Britain. We want to deliver a world-class experience for Chinese visitors, maximizing their spend and stay, to support our ambition of making Britain the most welcoming destination in Europe, so we are honoured to receive this endorsement of our work.”

Course participant Natalie Wood from Northumberland Tourism said:

“The China Welcome training gave us an invaluable insight into Chinese visitors. This knowledge will help us when working with Chinese colleagues, media and buyers, as well as giving us insights to share with tourism businesses to help them to offer Chinese visitors the warm welcome that the North East is known for.”

Chinese visitors are already some of the UK’s highest spenders, spending on average £2,688 a head, and VisitBritain has ambitions to double spend from Chinese visitors to £1 billion by 2020.

Other developments to promote the UK’s competitive tourism offer in China include a new direct airline route from Beijing to Manchester. The new route, operated by Hainan Airlines, becomes operational from June 2016 and will offer up to four direct flights per week from Beijing to Manchester, making it easier for Chinese visitors to explore the UK’s northern regions. Other initiatives run by VisitBritain include its annual trade mission to China, with the 2015 event – which took place in Beijing in November – being the largest ever. The organisation has also recently launched a new directory of more than 300 hotels, attractions and activity providers across the UK which have signed up to its GREAT China Welcome programme.

Latest figures from VisitBritain show that visits from China were up 37% in the first nine months of 2015, smashing previous records. There were 214,000 visits from China from January to September, beating the number of visits for all of 2014, with figures for the last quarter of 2015 still to come. Spend was up 4% over the same period, to £435 million.