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China Tops Bricks Table for UK Tourists: Report

LONDON - China is the most popular destination out of the BRICS among UK holidaymakers, according to the World Travel Market (WTM) 2011 Industry Report released on Monday at the WTM Conference.

Out of the 1,006 UK holidaymakers surveyed, 46 percent are interested in visiting China and a further 8 percent have already done so.

1,029 senior executives of businesses in the world's tourism industry surveyed also recognized China as the most important country for their businesses, with the country’s natural beauty, growing economy and the availability of direct flights being key reasons.

The release of the report coincided with an announcement that the WTM Vision Conference will expand into both Shanghai and Moscow next May.

Originated in London in 2009, this half-day mid-year conference will offer business executives in the travel industry insights to help their businesses.

"China is an obvious destination for the WTM Vision series, as it is already one of the most important outbound and inbound tourism markets," said Fiona Jeffery, Chairman of Reed Travel Exhibitions.

World Travel & Tourism Council figures show that China is the world's largest market for outbound tourists, spending around $55 billion in 2010. China also received 56 million international tourists in 2010, generating $46 billion of revenue.

Visiting the UK this September, Vice-Premier Wang Qishan said that the Chinese government would "double its effort in tourism" because of the industry's link to social economic development.

Olympics hope to the UK's tourism

A lack of consumer confidence globally has imposed great challenges on UK's inbound tourism industry, but industry experts hope that the trend will be reversed in the months leading up to London's Olympic Games next July.

Although 84 percent of UK businesses surveyed believe that the games will positively affect the country, only 33 percent believe that it will positively affect their businesses. 49 percent believe that there will be no impact, and a further 17 said that it will be a negative impact.

Although the UK government heralds the Olympics as a major opportunity for the country's tourism industry, interests among UK travelers are limited. A mere 8 percent of UK holidaymakers say they will incorporate the Olympics into their holiday, with 6 percent looking to avoid it all together by leaving the UK.

Mary Rance, Chief Executive of UK Inbound, said that she believes a large percentage of overseas tourists coming to the Olympics will be from China, although she fears there are still challenges that could put Chinese visitors off.

"Key challenges facing tourists visiting the UK are visa complications and high Air Passenger Duty," Rance said.

The standard rate of UK's Air Passenger Duty is 8.5 times the average of other countries in Europe. The fact that UK is also not a Schengen country also requires Chinese tourists visiting Europe to apply for a separate UK visa.

Rance is also worried that the Olympics organizing committee London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG)'s practice of holding up a large number of hotel spaces for sponsor and athletes' families in the capital could mean tourists will have problems booking hotel rooms.

"LOCOG has booked a lot of beds which they potentially do not need. When they decide to release these beds next year, many US or Japanese tourists who like booking early may have cancelled their holiday plans to the UK already," Rance said.

"But from our experience this is not a concern for Chinese tourists, who generally book accommodations much closer to their actual holidays," Rance added.

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