2017 visitor visa figures show that Chinese visitors to the UK have soared by over 150% in the five years since 2012.
In 2012, the UK issued just 210,958 visitor visas in China. 2017 figures released by the Home Office this month show that figures rose to 531,967, a 152% increase since 2012.
And visitor numbers aren’t the only thing that have grown, figures from Global Blue show that spending on shopping by Chinese visitors in the UK was up 32% in 2017, building on a 26% rise in 2016.
Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said, “record tourism growth from China is testament to the strength our world-class culture, sightseeing and shopping. We will continue to work closely with the tourism sector to ensure future growth and attract even more Chinese visitors to the UK.”
During the same period, visitors from the EU saw just 5% growth in spending, after a 21% fall in 2016.
It’s not just the UK who are seeing the benefit of Chinese tourism, with an expenditure of $261.1bn worldwide in 2016, they are the world’s highest spending tourists.
Figures show that Chinese shoppers have been driving Tax Free Shopping globally, growing from 21% of global tax-free shopping spend in 2010 to 43% in 2017. Global Blue predicts continued strong growth in Chinese visitor numbers as its middle class grows.
Research by New West End Company, based on Global Blue figures show, that in 2016 the Chinese were the biggest spenders in London’s West End, accounting for 25% of all tax-free shopping. Visitors from Saudi Arabia, the next highest spenders, account for 7% of sales.
As the shadow of Brexit looms, and the UK prepares to leave the EU, international tourism is growing in importance to the UK economy. The tourism sector supports over 4 million jobs, which is 11.9% of the country’s total employment. While inbound tourism alone, brings in £25bn per year.