Cities in Spain barely appear on the list. That’s not because of any unreported breakdown in Sino-Spanish relations: there simply aren’t that many direct flights, making a visit from Shanghai to Barcelona or Madrid a bit of a pain.
The good old UAE
Visitors to Dubai have increased rapidly, from under 100, 000 to over 270, 000, in under five years. Abu Dhabi remains a very long way behind, receiving less than a fifth of the visitors recorded by its glitzier neighbour, managing only 45, 000 in 2013. But it's growing incredibly fast, and in the first eight months of 2014 recorded over 75, 000.
This rapid rise is explained in part by the Chinese government’s decision to grant “Approved Destination Status” to the UAE in 2009. The presence of all those luxury hotels and shopping centers seems to be helping too, mind.
New York is by far the most popular long-haul destination for Chinese visitors, receiving more than 600, 000 visitors in 2013. In December, Chris Heywood, a senior vice president at marketing board NYC & Company, describes China as “a key market for NYC tourism”, and notes that it’s the fourth largest market for the city overall. “It has seen a 400 per cent uptick since 2009, ” he notes – and it’s “on track to welcome 743, 000 visitors [in 2014]”. That, for those keeping score, is another 15 per cent growth in one year
The Big Apple has obvious attractions to tourists, but it's also been working hard to attract them too. Its hotels have been offering Chinese style breakfast, while state officials have been presenting workshops to help the city's travel agents become “China ready”.
If London wants to attract more Chinese visitors, it could do worse than follow New York's example. In fact, claims Robin Johnson, the director of the China Project at Visit Britain, it already has. “We’ve stepped up our activity considerably in China over the past 18 months to further increase visits, not only to London, but crucially across the whole of Britain.” He adds that the average Chinese visitor spends longer in Britain than in other European countries, spends more, and is more likely to travel to other parts of the UK.
Nonetheless, the fact remains, that China will be the most important rising power of the 21st century, and its population are shunning London. If the British capital wants to remain a world city, that will have to change.
1) For the purposes of this article, we've excluded visitors from the “special administrative regions” of Hong Kong and Macau.
2) We've excluded destinations in Germany and Austria, as their authorities include arrivals from Hong Kong, making direct comparisons difficult.