Chinese tourists are increasingly choosing Britain as a favourite holiday destination, lured by a cheap pound following the Brexit referendum and willing to spend their growing disposable incomes.
In fact, in 2017, during the Chinese Golden Week holiday from October 1 to October 8, Chinese tourists spent a whopping £29m in shopping centres and on high streets across the UK, according to data from payments processor Worldpay.
And while much of the spending occurred in boutiques and high end stores in and around London’s West End, hospitality businesses, such as pubs, restaurants and bars, enjoyed a 23% boost in spending by Chinese tourists.
James Frost, Worldpay’s UK chief marketing officer, said that Britain’s reputation as a world-class shopping destination is one of the main reasons why Chinese tourists are flocking here each year.
So how can you encourage these Chinese nationals to spend money with your business?
1. Align your products & services so they genuinely appeal to Chinese nationals
In 2016, over half of Chinese visitors to the UK were aged between 16 and 34, according to VisitBritain data. In other words, Chinese visitors tend to be younger than many others, which is something you need to appreciate if you want to encourage them to spend money with your business.
Align your products and services so they genuinely appeal to Chinese nationals and make them want to spend their money on them. Chinese tourists are more than quick selfies, they want experiences, activities and they want to take part.
2. Get active on Chinese social media
The Chinese love the Internet, especially social media, which is why getting active on the platforms they are using can be a very worthwhile investment.
Did you know that Chinese technology giant Tencent is worth more than Facebook? The company’s most popular platform, WeChat, boasts a stunning 980 million monthly active users, making it one of the best places for you to connect and engage with Chinese consumers.
Get a profile created, establish a presence and begin engaging Chinese nationals on their own turf and, importantly, in their own language.
3. Allow mobile payments
Chinese nationals love their tech, especially mobile payment facilities. You can score a quick win by enabling them to use such facilities when spending money with your business. China UnionPay, WeChat Pay and AliPay are three of the most popular payment mediums and account for an enormous percentage of the overall market.
By enabling Chinese nationals to use the payment mechanisms they are already using at home, your business will stand itself in a much more favourable light than your competitors that don’t.
4. Implement Chinese language facilities
Chinese visitors really appreciate support in the form of Chinese language facilities, such as signs, Mandarin or Cantonese-speaking staff, announcements in Chinese, etc.
This makes Mandarin and/or Cantonese-based marketing materials a must, but be very aware of doing a straight Google Translate, it can be too literal, leaving your business open to marketing the wrong message tone. Use a Chinese-speaking specialist who can really personalise your messages.
I recently saw a Chinese New Year marketing message on a shop front (no I couldn’t read it), but that same day the advert was flying around both UK and Chinese Social Media as it was just culturally incorrect. The shame is that the business spent the time and effort in good faith, they never intended to cause anyone embarrassment. If they had sought the assistance of a specialist it could all have been avoided, which leads onto our next point.
5. Understand and respect the culture
As is the case when you are looking to engage with any international customers, understanding and respecting their culture is massively important.
Don’t risk making a cultural faux pas when dealing with Chinese customers as it could permanently damage your relationship. Do your homework and research even the basics of the Chinese culture to ensure you don’t upset anyone unintentionally.
Chinese culture is diverse and unique, yet harmoniously blended.
6. Ignore the clichés
While a large proportion of Chinese visitors often stick to what they know and eat meals that are predominantly Chinese in nature, there are also a large number who want to try new things. So, if you are entertaining some potential Chinese customers, don’t be afraid to showcase some good old-fashioned British fare.
Obviously, don’t force people into doing things, but don’t worry about bucking the trend a little once in a while either.
7. Consider joining VisitBritain’s GREAT China Welcome Charter
The official tourism website of Great Britain, VisitBritain, has a GREAT China Welcome programme which aims “to make Britain the destination of choice for the rapidly-growing Chinese market”.
A free charter businesses can apply to join, providing they meet the informal assessment criteria.
By signing the charter, businesses can benefit by using the official chartermark in their own collateral and receive regular updates about the Chinese market, as well as upcoming opportunities.