In November 2014 Colin Fox, Marketing Manager at English Lakes, attended Destination Britain in Guangzhou, China with the clear intention of putting the Lake District firmly on the Chinese traveller’s map. Here he expresses his informed belief that we could become the Chinese destination of choice.
At last year’s International luxury travel market exhibition in Shanghai Martin Jacques, the author of ‘When China rules the World’, said “China is going to change the world politically, culturally and socially, producing more than a third of the world’s GDP and 20% of the global population by 2030″. The Chinese economy will be over twice the size of the European Union, plus the Indian and US economies combined. Tourism was also cited as the leading leisure pursuit for China’s wealthy.
Staggering, but what about the here and now ?
2013 proved to be a record year for the UK as a destination for Chinese visitors. According to the China National Tourism we reached ‘Number 1 destination in Europe’ with a reported 373,684 visa applications . This was an increase of 31% on the previous year with 96% of applications being successful at an enhanced processing speed averaging 9 working days. These impressive figures for 2013 have already been eclipsed by the following half year results to June 2014 showing a further 22% increase year on year. It would not be overkill to call the current inbound tourism growth phenomenal. The steady improvements in ease of visa application, the new synergy with Schengen alignment and perhaps most importantly, the 12 visa application centres, put the UK further and further up the pecking order. It is fair to say that the most promising emerging tourism market of the 21st century has well and truly emerged!
Now the next step in the process is to encourage and inspire the Chinese travel trade to discover that the UK visitor experience is not confined to the ingrained iconic images of London and Edinburgh. As we start to really highlight the wide variety of places and experiences on offer, the Chinese travel trade will promote these in their marketing literature, press magazines and on their travel websites.
Many, many thousands of middle class Chinese travellers are looking for the ultimate shopping experience and to add to the best luxury brand labels in their wardrobes. The huge tax levy on luxury goods in China, combined with clever brand marketing, has built a growing desire and aspiration within the burgeoning middle classes who seek visual acknowledgement of their wealth. This could seem a very stereotypical generalisation, but an important consideration for a destination without a City or high street which comes close to Milan, Paris, London or even Manchester et al. However, as real-life travel encounters become a prominent factor in travel culture, holiday makers are looking to expand their worldliness and travel companies in turn will look to expand their itineraries.
The Lake District is well positioned and well known among many UK domestic holidaymakers and we have a reputation with Japanese, American and many European countries as part of a full UK itinerary wish-list. Inspiring the Chinese to visit the Lake District in greater number will not be straight forward but it is certainly possible in the short term and a definite for the future with a concerted effort in the right areas.
English Lakes currently welcomes a good number of Chinese visitors, the numbers having increased steadily over the last few years. I believe the potential growth far outreaches other so called emerging markets and by maintaining strong relationships with established international markets, whilst at the same time nurturing the Chinese travel trade, we will put our part of the world firmly on the tourist trail. We already know with confidence that we can deliver the right products and the stunning scenery that encompass what any visit to the Lake District is all about.
By promoting the Lake District landscape, our conservation of it, our heritage and culture and how best to experience it to a huge Chinese market I believe we can become one of the top desirable destinations in the UK at the start of what could become a long and fruitful history of inbound Chinese tourism to Great Britain.