Thursday 5 March 2020 12:01 am

Coronavirus: UK retailers launch action plan to win back Chinese visitors

Retailers have this morning launched a battle plan to tackle the impact of coronavirus on the sector, as a sharp drop in Chinese visitors has hurt UK high streets. 

The international retail sector has set up a new Association of International Retail, which has unveiled a recovery plan for the industry which will be put into action when the virus – officially named Covid-19 – is contained. 

Read more: Coronavirus: Retailers battle supply chain issues as consumers stockpile

Retailers across the UK have suffered after the number of Chinese tourists dropped, as they account for more than 25 per cent of all tax-free sales in the country.

The association, which is backed by Harrods, Selfridges and John Lewis has demanded visa enhancements to encourage Chinese visitors to come to the UK and boost the economy after the threat of coronavirus has faded.

Suggestions for enhancements include making it easier for parents of Chinese students to visit their children, extending the electronic waiver scheme to China, and introducing a ten-year multi-entry visa. 

It said it will aim for a “more coordinated and targeted marketing approach” to promote the UK and its major brands to high net worth Chinese visitors. 

Among its recommendations, the association said more Mandarin speakers should be employed in shops and hotels, Chinese mobile payment systems should be widely accepted and border staff should be more friendly to international visitors. 

Read more: Hong Kong retail sales plummet as coronavirus continues to dent economy

“London has long been the shop window for luxury and ensuring that business is working together on issues such as improving the visa process for visitors, digitalisation of tax-free shopping and enhancing the airport experience are all crucial in attracting more visitors to the UK and maintaining Britain and London’s competitiveness globally,” Walpole chief executive Helen Brocklebank said.