LAST year Chinese tourists heading to France outnumbered those visiting Britain by more than five-to-one. Many furious business leaders blamed Britain’s “outdated” and overly restrictive visa system for giving our neighbours across the Channel the edge in attracting this increasingly important consumer group.
However, new research from YouGov China reveals that, while travel visas may be part of the problem, France also enjoys a brand advantage over Britain among Chinese consumers.
The survey of China’s online population, or netizens, found that while they have a reasonably good impression of the UK, we still come out behind competitors France and Germany on a number of key measures.
Asked where they would most like to visit, 38 per cent picked Paris, while London tied with Dubai, at 29 per cent, for a respectable second.
France, at 28 per cent, also tops the list of countries where Chinese netizens would most like to live, while America comes second (21 per cent), and Germany third (11 per cent). Less than one in ten would choose to live in Britain.
The US is the country that internet-connected Chinese people most admire, at 27 per cent. Germany and France claimed second (18 per cent) and third place (15 per cent), respectively, while only six per cent admired Britain most.
Chancellor George Osborne recently announced changes to the visa system to make it easier for Chinese tourists to visit Britain, but this research indicates it is going to take more than that if the country hopes to become a major destination for increasingly mobile (and wealthy) Chinese consumers.
Stephan Shakespeare is the chief executive of YouGov