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Britain welcomes China on first leisure tour groups

Around 80 visitors, media, travel agents and officials from China will meet His Royal Highness the Duke of York for an exclusive event…

Around 80 visitors, media, travel agents and officials from China will meet His Royal Highness the Duke of York for an exclusive event  at the Tower of London on Monday 25 July. The event – organised by VisitBritain, the national tourism marketing agency, and Visit London – kicks off Britain`s first leisure tour from China, (25 – 29 July), under new Approved Destination Status (ADS) visas.

As well as Chinese consumers, the first group also includes key travel agents, here to experience Britain so they can sell it effectively to their clients, and officials from the city administrations of Beijing and Shanghai and the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA). More than a dozen TV stations and newspapers on the trip will return home with programmes and articles to inspire the Chinese to holiday here.

The group`s first day starts in London with a breakfast hosted by Lord Marshall of Knightsbridge, chairman of VisitBritain, at the Victoria and Albert Museum on the morning of 25 July. They will then tour a selection of London`s modern and traditional visitor attractions including the BA London Eye, Madame Tussaud`s and the British Museum, and enjoy a catamaran cruise on the Thames. The day ends at the Tower of London with a tour of the Crown Jewels. Visit London is hosting a special reception in the White Tower – attended by HRH the Duke of York, England Marketing Advisory Board chairman, Hugh Taylor, and Visit London chief executive, James Bidwell. The guests at the Tower will be treated to a sumptuous Chinese meal at the New Armouries, created and cooked especially for the evening by chefs from Hakkasan, the only Michelin starred Chinese restaurant in Europe. During the dinner, guests will learn about the history of the Tower from Yeoman Warders.

Lord Marshall of Knightsbridge, VisitBritain`s chairman, said: “Previously, only able to visit the UK on business or as students, Chinese citizens can now obtain UK visas for holiday groups of five or more. The emerging Chinese market is extremely important for VisitBritain`s £74 billion visitor economy and offers huge potential for growth. With fierce competition for Chinese visitors from destinations around the world, next week`s visit is a great opportunity for Britain to truly shine as a world-class destination.

“The natural beauty of our landscapes, countryside and beaches, as well as iconic and historic landmarks, our rich cultural heritage, and superlative shopping and dining, will all drive Chinese visitors to choose Britain for their holidays.”

James Bidwell, Visit London chief executive, added: “China is a powerhouse economy and there is a huge potential market for visiting London. There are already many thousands of Chinese people who choose London as their preferred destination to study or do business. We are delighted to welcome the first ADS group to London this week. Next year`s China in London season will be the largest outside Asia and will be a fantastic celebration for Chinese visitors and residents alike.”

From 26 – 29 July, the tour visits key destinations around Britain capitalising on Harry Potter fever, 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 itinerary includes, amongst others, Christ Church College in Oxford, Blenheim Palace, Bicester Shopping Village, Liverpool, Manchester and the Lake District. A gala dinner at Edinburgh Castle, sponsored by VisitScotland and attended by its chairman Philip Riddle, marks the end of the visit.

VisitBritain has been leading industry preparations to welcome these visitors, the number of which grew 41% last year, contributing £131 million to the economy. Over 60 inbound operators in Britain are now working with the CNTA to provide ground handling services to Chinese tour operators, travel agents and carriers. VisitBritain and the tourism industry aim to at lest double the value of inbound tourism from China to over £200 million by 2010.

The tour is facilitated by Gullivers Travel Associates and supported by Historic Royal Palaces, Historic Scotland, Marketing Manchester and the Liverpool Culture Company.

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