For a holiday marked by fashion, sales and food, Chinese tourists ride cheaper pound and bargain packages to Great Britain
The United Kingdom has unexpectedly emerged as a popular travel destination among Chinese tourists, especially in the second half of the year, industry experts said.
According to Ctrip, China's largest online travel agency, the UK registered the biggest annual increase during the seven-day National Day holiday in October. The number of tourists booking trips via Ctrip rose by 60 percent during the holiday.
Ctrip's sales of UK packages are not comparable to those for Japan, South Korea or Thailand as the distance is longer and the cost higher. But they have outnumbered trips to another popular destination, Australia, and are approaching long-time favorites such as the United States, Italy and France.
Zhu Linlin, a communications specialist at a Shanghai-based multinational insurance company, flew to the UK during the National Day holiday. Before going there, Zhang did not have very high expectations. But the trip turned out to be quite a surprise.
"There is so much to see－the museums, the castles, universities and even just the natural scenery. While people used to say that tourists in the UK will be fed up with fish and chips, I would like to say that they are all wrong. The choices are plenty. I ate to my heart's content at every meal there. Since the pound has been quite low after Brexit, the whole trip was really worth the money," she said.
After the peak travel season ended with the National Day holiday, Ctrip packages became cheaper by 10 to 20 percent. So, Chinese tourists' interest in the UK persisted, ready for the big Christmas-related sales in December and New Year sales in January.
Li Yi, a fashion buyer based in Shanghai, visited the UK in late October. Now, as the sales season is around the corner, she has booked fresh flight tickets for January.
"I used to live in London. I lived there for six years. It can be said that my understanding of the fashion business started to take shape there. There are so many fashion brands which are really chic and unique although they are less known compared to big names. It is better for me to go there and check out the latest trends. And, of course, the prices are very attractive," she said.
To cater to the growing demand of Chinese travelers, hotels and airlines have come out with special offers. As the year winds to a close, the shopping season with big events like Black Friday and Christmas sales is sure to lure thousands of Chinese travelers, industry experts said.
Como Metropolitan London, located in the central part of the city, provides its guests with personalized shopping guidance services at the outlet store Bicester Village. Besides, an additional 10 percent discount is provided to Como's guests at this outlet.
British Airways charges its business-class passengers 14,800 yuan (,172) each for a return trip from Shanghai to the UK, if a group of two to five people book tickets together by the end of November. Travelers flying from Chengdu or Beijing can enjoy separate discounts. The special group packages through the year cover holidays including Christmas, New Year, Chinese New Year, Valentine's Day and Labor Day.
According to Richard Tams, executive vice-president of British Airways China, the UK has become one of the most popular destinations for travelers from China. The airline started to provide special group trips from this month, which are designed to provide travel plans "for the next great holidays with ample lead time and great savings".