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Retailers urge longer UK visas for Chinese tourists

By Bo Leung in London | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-11-09 02:13

A group representing retailers and other businesses in London's West End has called on the United Kingdom government to extend the length of visas issued to Chinese nationals, something it believes will help the economy.

Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company, which represents hundreds of businesses in the shopping hotspots of Oxford Street, Bond Street, and Regent Street, said the latest figures show a rise in the number of Chinese visitors to London.

To maintain the momentum, he would like to see visas issued to Chinese visitors extended to cover multiple visits during a 10-year period, instead of the two years of the current pilot scheme, which is due to end in January.

"Visas and access is incredibly important," he said. "So, I'm hoping the government will listen to businesses during the Brexit talks and think about the important Chinese market and also make sure we have the airport capacity as well."

According to figures from New West End Company's annual Christmas tracker report, international demand in the area has "gone from strength to strength this year". Sales to non-EU tourists were up 28 percent between July and August.

The study found sales to Chinese tourists have been "essential to the growth", rising by 33 percent for the period of January to September in comparison to the same period last year.

The report cited figures from tax-free shopping company Global Blue, noting that the average spend per person is already up 4 percent overall, with Chinese shoppers up 11 percent to 1,583 pounds ($2,079) against the backdrop of a weaker pound.

"A few years ago, Chinese visitors would go for high-priced fashion items, but now they're focusing on independent retailers and art pieces that have been curated or made in Britain," said Tyrrell.

He said there has been more interest from Chinese tourists in art programs and the activities of galleries and he expects the trend to continue.

While Chinese people used to mainly travel during Chinese New Year and Golden Week at the start of October, there is now a constant presence of visitors from China.

"We have seen a lot more younger Chinese people, so we're tapping into universities and the student market to find opportunities for our retailers and galleries," he added.

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