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‘Chinese tourists can provide rich pickings for UK retailers’

Roy Graff, Managing director of ChinaContact, a UK consultancy for China’s luxury tourism and retail sectors.

Back in 2005, the idea that the Chinese would outspend American, Japanese and Middle Eastern tourists seemed ridiculous. But this is fast becoming the reality, with the number of Chinese outbound tourists predicted to reach 100 million by 2015.

The UK should focus on high-net-worth individuals and discerning tourists. The Chinese traveller spends an average of £1,600 per trip, already higher than most nationalities, but this figure is skewed by coach tour travellers. The independent or business traveller spends two or three times more on shopping alone.

Despite the UK’s notoriously complex visa process, the Chinese remain attracted to London.

Chinese shoppers are also keen to show off their purchases using social media. Retailers wishing to win fans should engage via Chinese sites such as Weibo, Weixin, Kaixin or Renren.

Frustrations for the Chinese include finding the right sizes and competing with fellow Chinese in busy shopping districts. Off-the-beaten track alternatives would be appreciated by Chinese visitors.

Retailers should invest in cultural awareness and service training, hire Chinese-speaking staff, offer information in Chinese and accept the China UnionPay payment card.

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