THEY like Harry Potter, afternoon tea and the Premier League, but not fish and chips or the seaside - which makes York and Huddersfield the top destinations for the region’s increasing numbers of visitors from China, according to data from tourism officials.
More than 250,000 Chinese holidaymakers spent half a billion pounds in the UK last year, and the figure is expected to grow sharply as the country’s growing middle and affluent classes spread their wings, Visit Britain said.
It published a report suggesting that Chinese tourists rate Britain highly both for its heritage and contemporary culture - particularly relating to food and films.
“They are mostly interested in symbolic elements - the royal family, Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter and Downton Abbey,” the report said.
York, whose 15th century Shambles has a shop selling exclusively Harry Potter merchandise, and which was one of the first cities to be awarded Visit Britain’s “Great China Welcome” charter, has seen the number of tourists from China soar in the last five years. More than 20,000 visited the city in 2015 - with only Americans coming from abroad in greater numbers.
The city’s tourism agency has produced a visitors’ guide in Mandarin, which is distributed on flights from Beijing to Manchester, and says guests enjoy traditional English experiences in the city, such as taking tea at Betty’s café.
Sally Greenaway, head of Visit York, said, “Whilst numbers are still relatively small in comparison to UK visitors, it’s a very important market for us to nurture, particularly as we know that overseas visitors account for a larger proportion of tourism spend.”
She added: “One of the most important things for Chinese visitors is the welcome, and they especially appreciate a very personal greeting. Having a few simple words of Mandarin Chinese is a great way to do this.
“Business cards are often appreciated and exchanged using two hands not one. Providing chop sticks and soup spoons is also a nice touch and Chinese versions of menus are a great way of explaining restaurant options.”
Nationally, the most popular individual attractions for Chinese visitors are said to be Buckingham Palace, with a third of those surveyed saying it was on their to-do list, followed by Chatsworth House and Edinburgh Castle.
Visit Britain says that although guests are keen to embrace many customs, kissing and hugging are not among them. “Many would feel embarrassed, and so it is best to avoid it,” the report says.
Hoteliers and restaurateurs would also be wise to avoid the number four, which is considered unlucky, Visit York added. “Don’t book your guests on level four, in a room with four in the number or at table four,” is their advice.
The tourism report said 14 per cent of Chinese visitors would like to go to a Premier League football match, but fewer than one in 10 wanted to sample seaside fish and chips, despite more people developing the so-called “western palate”.
As of next weekend, Huddersfield will be the only place in Yorkshire to see Premiership football, when the Terriers open their home campaign against Newcastle.