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June 22, 2017

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British retailers brace for rush on high streets during Golden Week

British retailers are expecting a sharp upturn in Chinese tourist spending next week as holidaymakers head to the UK during Golden Week.

Online travel agency Ctrip reports a strong demand in the Chinese market for trips to Britain during the national holiday, which runs from Oct 1 through 7.

According to Ctrip, this is largely driven by a fall in travel, shopping and consumption costs because of the depreciation of the pound following the referendum in the UK on its membership of the European Union. A trip to the UK is now about 20 percent cheaper than it was this time last year, according to the agency, and more than half of Ctrip's routes to the UK were booked up one month ahead of Golden Week.

Xu Xiaolei, chief branding officer at travel site Aoyou.com, said the number of orders for UK travel during Golden Week is up by 10 percent on last year.

Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company, which delivers managing and marketing services to stores on the London shopping streets of Oxford Street, Bond Street and Regent Street, said the sales lift in the capital due to Golden Week this year is expected to significantly outperform last year.

"February's Spring Festival holiday is traditionally hailed as one of the most prosperous for the district, but this year's surprise summer uplift has shifted the spotlight to October," he said.

"This year's Golden Week is set to be a very different story to last year, when spending by Chinese visitors was down by 8 percent on the same period in 2014, following China's stock market crash."

Spending by Chinese visitors in August across London's West End was up by 65 percent on last year, to an average of 1,453 pounds per shopper, according to Tyrrell.

"These sales to Chinese visitors form a vital part of the West End's economy," he said. "As part of the UK China Visa Alliance, we support calls to make 10-year tourist visas the default offering to Chinese visitors, to ensure continued growth of this sector."

China moved into Britain's "top 10most valuable inbound visitor markets" for the first time last year, according to British tourism authority Visit Britain, with visits reaching a record-breaking 270,000. That was up by 46 percent on 2014, and spending was up by 18 percent, to 586 million pounds.

"The UK is offering great value for Chinese travelers at the moment," Visit Britain Chief Executive Sally Balcombe said.

Visit Britain began an initiative in 2014 to help British hotels, retailers and tour operators capitalize on the upturn in the number of visitors from China.The GREAT China Welcome Charter trains management in Mandarin or Cantonese and provides tips on Chinese preferences in accommodation and shopping experiences.

Many shops in London now carry catalogs with Chinese text, and more UK cash registers now accept Chinese payment systems such as UnionPay and Alipay.

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