Golf lures wealthy Chinese tourists to UK10th June, 2012 by Tania Longmire
Golf could be a source for economic growth in the UK, however it may require closer European integration to achieve this, according to new research.
A poll of millionaires in China by China.org.cn has found that golf is far and away their most popular sport and travelling is by some distance their favourite leisure activity.
This is in on top of a survey from VisitScotland earlier this year that found that the average Chinese tourist spends £770 on a holiday to Scotland, more than tourists from any other nation, and £70 more than the average American tourist. “It is very interesting that Chinese visitors are the highest spenders, as this is a new market for Scotland,” said Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland. “Many wealthy Chinese visitors [currently more than 500 Chinese dollar millionaires are created every day] want to come to Scotland to play golf and buy luxury items such as whiskey.”
China is also one of the global growth leaders in golf, as the number of courses are expected to increase by nearly five times, from 500 to 2,400, within the next seven years.
However, according to Sandie Dawe, chief executive of VisitBritain, while demand from affluent Chinese people to play golf in Britain is very strong, issues to do with visas are putting them off from visiting.
In particular, she said, the cost of a visa to visit the Schengen Area, which includes 26 European countries incorporating all of central Europe, Scandinavia and most of the Mediterranean, is cheaper than a separate visa that needs to be purchased in order to visit the UK. Britain never signed up to the Schengen Agreement and currently has no plans to do so.
“We are getting significantly fewer visitors than some of our European competitors,” she said. “We get about 150,000 Chinese visitors every year, but France is getting about ten times that amount.”
Dawe added that there are fewer direct flights to the UK from China than to several other European countries, meaning that Chinese tourists often buy two visas before coming to the UK, and end up spending large amounts of money in Europe, even though their main interest was in visiting Britain.
“The Chinese see the UK as the number one or two country in the world in terms of culture,” she added. “If we sent out a signal that we were relaxing and improving our visa regime, more Chinese tourists would come here.”
“The government needs to consider reducing the intrusive documentation and time required to obtain a visa,” added Nick Haley from Danos & Haley, a UK inbound travel company that offers golfing trips to Wentworth, Sunningdale, Turnberry, Royal Troon, Prestwick and St Andrews for high-end Chinese visitors.