London's retailers have long been wooing big-spending Chinese tourists, but this year's Olympics has made them ever keener to introduce innovative offerings, to capitalize upon so rare an opportunity.
The Grosvenor, a four-star hotel near London's Victoria Railway Station, is introducing a selection of Chinese breakfast items from early July, said Operations Manager Dean Culpan.
The new menu will include congee, pickled vegetables, century eggs, salted duck eggs, and youtiao (fried dough sticks), as well as an assortment of dim sum, buns and dumplings.
The hotel will also add Chinese newspapers and TV channels in guest rooms, and provide Mandarin information booklets, as the hotel has "received above average bookings from Chinese-based businesses for the Olympic period", said Culpan.
Harrods, the iconic department store in Knightsbridge, has launched an Android app in Mandarin to help Chinese shoppers better navigate its large store space. Functions of the app include a GPS guide, news and events updates and restaurant menus.
As a part of the promotion, the store invited a group of Chinese celebrities to try the app, and write about it on a micro blog. The celebrities included Happy Camp presenters Li Weijia and He Jiong of Hunan Satellite TV.
One reason that Chinese tourists have become a focus for many London retailers is that they "particularly like to shop", said Mary Rance, chief executive of Britain's tourism industry association UKinbound.
Rance said that retailers are increasingly opening new outlets in hotels, to make shopping easier for Chinese tourists.
Not only do Chinese tourists like shopping, they also have the financial means to do so, despite the current world economic downturn.
In the financial year ending in November, Chinese shoppers spent $2.15 trillion on tax-free products, a 56 percent increase year-on-year, according to the tax refund services provider Global Blue.
Luxury stores like Harrods, Selfridges and Liberty are already well aware of the benefits of employing Mandarin-speaking staff, but this trend is now spreading to other venues.
This includes Leaderboard Golf, a club with courses in several locations in southern England.
"The Chinese have developed a love for golf and we felt it is logical to reach out to this new tourist group and make it clear that they are welcome at our courses," said Paul Gibbons, chairman of Leaderboard.
Overseas subsidiaries of Chinese companies are also engaged in the competition to capture tourism income from the Chinese market.
China Telecom, the nation's largest fixed-line operator by customer numbers, launched a UK SIM card earlier this year.
With a 24-hour Chinese language customer service line providing information on transport routes and tourism services, the new product is expected to make Chinese tourists' holidays more convenient.
Ou Yan, managing director of China Telecom Europe, told China Daily that the launch was linked to the Olympics, and that the SIM card will be available for purchase in China, so that visitors can use it upon arriving in the UK.
While all these initiatives should give the UK's tourism industry a boost during the Olympics, Rance believes the real challenge lies in the longer term to attract Chinese tourists.
"Chinese tourists are important all of the time, not just for the Olympics, because they're incredibly important as a source market for the UK," she said.
"Providing bespoke services to Chinese tourists is important, as well as doing more to understand their needs."
She added that other issues UKinbound was lobbying the government on include speeding up the visa process for tourists, and reducing air passenger duty, which can cost between 85 pounds ($132) and 92 pounds per passenger for long-haul flights of more than 6,400 kilometers.
"So I don't think an increase in tourist numbers is going to just happen, I think it'll be done with a bit of help from the government," she said.
http://europe.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2012-06/27/content_15525509.htmForecasts suggest 30.7m visitors will spend 17.6b pounds this summer
The UK government's tourism agency VisitBritain has come up with a number of novel approaches to attract Chinese tourists during and after the London Olympics.
Within the past few months, a special tourism route was launched, billboard adverts were placed in major Shanghai and Beijing subway stations, and special television programs and newspaper columns introduced aspects of life in the United Kingdom and its culture.
"China is regarded as one of the most important markets for attracting visitors to the UK," said Bonnie Hua, who works in VisitBritain's China office alongside five other colleagues.
Globally, VisitBritain forecasts that the UK will attract 30.7 million visitors this year, spending 17.6 billion pounds ($27 billion) in the process.
Although this amount is less than the 17.9 billion pounds visitors spent in the UK last year, VisitBritain Chief Executive Sandie Dawe said it is still a "good outcome" given the current global economic climate.
A survey VisitBritain conducted in 2006-07 showed that 22 percent of people globally would be more likely to visit the UK because of the Olympics.
China ranked fifth-highest with 39 percent, after Mexico, Indonesia, India and Malaysia, making the work of Hua's team crucially important.
"This year is special for the UK, because we have the Olympics, the London 2012 Festival, and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. But we're also marketing them in a way that would appeal to a Chinese audience," she said.
Hua's team has launched a micro blog on Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese micro-blogging website, with a competition related to VisitBritain's poster campaign promoting Britain's heritage.
Hua's team asked commuters to take photos of these adverts in subway stations and upload them to the micro blog along with a slogan to match the advertisements.
"We received some very creative submissions, and the campaign has got the Chinese public thinking about what tourism in Britain really means," she said.
Hundreds of people took part in the competitions, with the winners receiving gifts made in Britain, including the Olympics mascot, souvenirs of the Diamond Jubilee and items from Shakespeare's birthplace museum's shop.
"For the Chinese tourists, the obvious British attraction is culture," said Hua.
As a result, her team used the culture, heritage and countryside versions of the campaign's poster collection most frequently in magazine, online and subway station advertisements.
Other key visuals in the campaign are shopping, sport, music and food.
To highlight aspects of Britain's royal and sporting culture among Chinese tourists, VisitBritain and the Chinese travel agency Lvmama together launched a special 11-day tour, which costs 21,500 yuan ($3,379).
To promote the initiative, VisitBritain has also chosen two Chinese goodwill ambassadors - Chinese Olympic rider Hua Tian and actress Li Bingbing.
Since May, Hua Tian has been writing weekly columns for the Shanghai Morning Post, introducing his life in the UK.
Li hosted five episodes of London Action, a cultural program on China Central Television, between February and March, introducing Britain's Olympic culture, heritage and music.
Just before the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, VisitBritain hosted a tea party where an actress looking like Queen Elizabeth shared afternoon tea with more than 100 Chinese guests at the Daning International Plaza in Shanghai.
The surprise visit brought Britain's festive spirit to China, with the regal look-alike followed on the streets of Shanghai by thousands of Chinese fans who thought she was the real thing.
VisitBritain plans to work with Chinese news portal Sina.com to offer Chinese visitors tax return advice in partnership with tax refund provider Global Blue, and publish blog posts on British culture written by a dedicated team of Chinese celebrity bloggers.
In August, the Shanghai Arts Channel will also broadcast a weekly television program focusing on the Cultural Olympiad - a series of arts programs inspired by the Olympics including films, exhibitions, live performances, music, and outdoor events.
"We hope the Chinese tourists will continue to visit Britain after the Olympics, so we will continue to introduce new surprises to the market to facilitate that," said Bonnie Hua.