Chinese students could add £1.7bn to British Tourism this year

June 25, 2021
By Helena Beard

The Chinese student market could be an excellent target for British tourism this year despite the ongoing complications of international travel. China is currently on the UK’s amber list, meaning students will be required to isolate on arrival for their studies in September. However, the likelihood is that this will not stop them coming. It may, however, dissuade them for returning to China for end of term holidays, providing a great opportunity for British tourism businesses, transport providers and tour operators to engage with them to encourage them to visit. This sector also has high disposable income, a propensity to travel and a desire to immerse themselves in British culture. The Chinese Student market was the subject of this month’s Chinese Tourism Leaders’ Forum.

Chinese students are an important sector for tourism

Speaking at the Forum which was held on Wednesday 23rd June, Helen Bailey, head of Guanxi’s new research division, said: “Chinese students have more than 1.7 billion pounds ($2.38 billion) a year of disposable income to spend while studying in the United Kingdom and are looking for engaging, welcoming experiences to enjoy alongside their university studies.”

Her findings looked at why students chose to study in the UK and why they are so important to tourism destinations and attractions in the UK.

“Chinese university students want to immerse themselves in the UK and all that it has to offer,” Bailey said. “They want to experience places as a local and feel what it is like to really live in the UK.”

Also speaking at the forum was Matt Durnin, global head of insights and consultancy at the British Council, who talked about Chinese international student mobility pre- and post- pandemic and the global impact on university admissions.

He explained that while it is still too early to predict the exact number of Chinese applications to UK universities this fall, UCAS indications for the 2021 cycle are looking positive. He said there has been a 30 percent uplift in Chinese applications compared to the previous year. “However, many students are applying to multiple destinations as a backup, so the reality is unlikely to be as high,” he added.

The forum, hosted by Guanxi, a travel PR and representation agency based in the UK and specialising in China, and Capela China, a consultancy that offers China-ready training to UK destinations, brings together the top 50 senior British travel executives who are key drivers of the inbound travel market from China. Members of the forum meet to share best practice and ideas around the Chinese market in a collaborative manner.

The pandemic has put a temporary stop to much of the mainstream inbound tourism market, and this year, the student market has shot into sharp focus.

Chinese students are the most important international cohort for UK universities

China sends more students to the UK than any other country. According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, 35 percent of all non-EU students in 2019-20 were from China, and since 2015/16, the number of students from China has increased by 56%, to 141,870 in 2019-20.

Over the last two years, the UK has taken significant market share from the US and Australia primarily due to political tensions and the closing of borders. Canada’s intake suffered from an issue over visa access. The UK is in a prime position to maximise on this opportunity.

Helena Beard, Managing Director of Guanxi, said: “The UK and European tourism industry need to take heed of the growing numbers of Chinese international students to the UK and learn how best to tap into this affluent market and maximise on its vast potential. Our research shows that Chinese students are keen to explore the UK whilst they study here, but our proximity to Europe is also a key driver in choosing a British university. European capitals also have an opportunity to attract high spending weekenders once travel opens up between the UK and Europe.”

“Chinese students, on average, have four times the disposable income of British students, and prioritize their spend on travel, leisure, entertainment and fashion, all of which provide an important boost to the UK economy,” she added. “There really is no place quite like China when it comes to international students.”

If you are interested in attracting the Chinese students in the UK to visit your destination or attraction or use your services, please get in touch and we can help run through some options.

You may also be interested in these related topics.

Chinese students in the UK. Why you need to market to them.

A guide to Chinese students studying abroad.

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