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All 1,300 will get to see some of London’s famous attractions

1,300 Chinese VIPs come to see that Britain is the business

Britain is the prize for 1,300 employees from Perfect China, a major manufacturer headquartered in Guangdong province. Every year they send their successful direct sales representatives on an international trip as a reward for their achievements and have chosen Britain for 2009. It is further evidence that Britain remains a world-class destination – not just for holidays, but also for business travel – despite recent figures showing a 12% decline in inbound visits to the UK in the first five months of the year.

National tourism agency VisitBritain made use of its representatives in Beijing to assist the group with getting their visas through the British Embassy and suggested destinations on the itinerary. Keith Beecham, VisitBritain’s overseas network director will welcome the group at a gala dinner in London and says: “Despite a global economic downturn, Swine Flu and increasing competition from rival destinations, this is our chance to give a warm welcome and demonstrate that Britain has much that appeals to the Chinese traveller including experiences, attractions and destinations with a unique blend of historical and contemporary culture. Large ‘incentive’ trips such as this contribute to local economies and help support small and medium-sized businesses, jobs and local communities.

Organised with CITS MICE, one of China’s biggest tour operators, the itinerary begins in London on 18 July and takes in key destinations around Britain capitalising on Harry Potter fever with the release of the new film, the popularity of Premiership football teams with Chinese players, and the fascination with British history and culture from Churchill to Shakespeare. Shopping is also a major element of a Chinese holiday abroad and Britain’s VAT-refund policy makes this country an attractive option for international visitors. The trip won’t be all pleasure as organisers have squeezed in a business meeting as well as joining a charity run.

All 1,300 will get to see some of London’s famous attractions like the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Downing Street and the British Museum, watch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace and visit Greenwich and the Royal Observatory. They spend time in Oxford, at Christ Church College University – home to many international students – Blenheim Palace and shopping for designer and luxury brands at Bicester Village.  40 VIPs from the group are also extending their visit to spend time at Windsor Castle, Harrods and on Oxford Street, the group heads to Stratford-upon-Avon, Manchester’s Old Trafford stadium and the Lake District to enjoy the views and landscapes of Windermere, before heading to Edinburgh for whisky-tasting and the castle.

The value of the Chinese market is of paramount importance to British tourism with the number of Chinese visitors increasing over a 5-year period from 68,000 visitors in 2003 to 109,000 visitors in 2008 – an increase of 60.3% over a five year period. Spending also increased by 9.5% over the same 5 year period: from £127 million in 2003 to £139 million in 2008.

Chinese visitors are attracted by Britain’s cities and culture, history and heritage, its countryside and coastline, and a calendar of social and sporting events. Here they have the opportunity to indulge in trips to historic houses and royal palaces, to national museums and art galleries with special collections and exhibitions. Global high street names and the availability of designer brands – Selfridges, Burberry, Harrods and Marks & Spencer – mean shopping is another draw.

The landscapes of England, Scotland and Wales have inspired literary greats from Shakespeare to Austen, Robert Burns to Dylan Thomas and today, the Chinese can explore thousands of miles of coastline and acres of beautiful countryside. They are also drawn to locations favoured by film-makers and seen in films from Harry Potter, Elizabeth The Golden Age. To more recently, Sherlock Holmes.

On average, they spend over £1250 on trips of almost 20 nights’ duration. In 2006, 39,000 Chinese visitors spent £34 million shopping in Britain – their most popular activity – while visiting castles, churches, monuments, and historic houses was an activity enjoyed during 36,000 visits. They spent £29 million during the 34,000 visits that involved seeing museums and art galleries. Interestingly, 7,000 visits involved either watching sporting events or participating in sports activities. The appeal of Britain for the Chinese also includes wider British culture, Oxford, Cambridge and natural scenic beauty and landscapes.