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UK&Europe unprepared for boom in Asian tourists

REPORT-LONDON-WTM 2006: The UK and the rest of Europe are unprepared to meet the specific demands of Asian tourists, according to a special report launched yesterday at World Travel Market 2006. The number…

REPORT-LONDON-WTM 2006: The UK and the rest of Europe are unprepared to meet the specific demands of Asian tourists, according to a special report launched yesterday at World Travel Market 2006. The number of Asians travelling to Europe is surging, reaching 14 million in 2005.

The WTM Global Trends Report 2006, produced for World Travel Market by Euromonitor International, warns that many European countries need to address gaps in their infrastructure and service provision, if they are to safeguard future tourism revenue from high-spending Chinese and Indian travellers.

Caroline Bremner, Euromonitor International’s Global Travel and Tourism Research Manager explains, “Europe has so far only taken small steps to make sure it can fully cater to the needs of Asian tourists, however, there is a long way to go. There is a particular service gap for Asians looking for more customised or self-determined travel, as by and large the main travel product currently available to Asian tourists in Europe is mass-catered in style”.

Mass-tourism includes such products as multi-country organised coach trips. Yet even here, Euromonitor International believes Europe’s infrastructure is falling short. Caroline Bremner continues, “The issue for organised coach tours is that many European cities have insufficient parking for coaches and limited access to city centres. There is also often a lack of credit card facilities and cash machines outside cities and main tourist areas, which is a particularly important issue for European countries to overcome, as Chinese tourists are restricted in how much cash they can carry abroad and typically, preload payment cards before travelling and rely on these cards while on holiday”.

UK lacks sufficient accommodation for Chinese tourists

The WTM Global Trends Report 2006 outlines the differing needs of Chinese versus Indian tourists, which European countries need to address.

Typically, Chinese tourists undertake a ten-day tour of Europe, involving multiple destinations, and prefer to curb spending on accommodation to focus on shopping, as they enjoy buying international brands.

Euromonitor International warns that currently, countries such as the UK have a shortage of low-to-mid priced accommodation; a situation which needs to be addressed, if the UK is to ensure that revenue opportunities from Chinese tourists are optimized, as this is their preferred accommodation price platform.

Marketing efforts help make France top destination for Chinese

In 2005, France was the most popular European country for Chinese tourists, with 472,000 Chinese visitors, while Germany came in second place, followed by Austria and Switzerland. France has been very proactive in attracting Chinese visitors, organising a ‘Year of France in China’, which entailed running more than a hundred events across China to promote France from October 2004 to July 2005. According to Maison de la France, Chinese tourists spend on average US$3,800 while in France.

However, many other European national tourist boards are only just beginning to cater to the Chinese market, in spite of the fact that by 2010 it is predicted that number of Chinese outbound tourists will have grown by 190% to 110 million and will generate US$94 million world-wide.

The WTM Global Trends Report 2006 also highlights that language is a key component which continues to undermine Europe’s tourism product offer. The VisitBritain website, for example, is only half-translated for Chinese users and, therefore, falls short of complete functionality, while, in spite of the fact that 2006 is the “Year of China” in London, there has been an evident shortfall of Mandarin speaking guides, as well as translations, at tourist attractions.

Caroline Bremner concludes: “How well Europe will fair in harnessing the boom in Asian tourism depends on how effectively and how quickly European countries meet the specific needs of Asian tourists. It is critical that national tourist offices and governments review their current product offer, filling in the current gaps in terms of specific transportation, accommodation and payment needs. European countries also need to assess their service provision, with the aim of offering all tourism services in a range of Asian languages, from tourist guides to menus, as standard. However, if Europe’s service offer remains stagnant and untargeted, the region runs the risk of some Asian tourists voting with their feet and taking their high-spending to destinations which make a more concerted and apparent effort to accommodate their needs.”

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