First Chinese tourists arrive in the UK

Monday, July 25, 2005

On Sunday, a group of 80 people from Beijing and Shanghai landed at Heathrow to become the first Chinese to arrive in the United Kingdom on tourist visas.

After protracted negotiations last year, the UK was granted "Approved Destination Status" (ADS) by the People's Republic of China in January 2005. The agreement will also allow travel companies to establish offices in China to promote tourism to the UK.

Before the signing of the agreement, China allowed only students and people on business trips to visit the country. It is estimated that 135,000 people visited the UK last year — just 0.6% of China's external tourism market.

The 80 tourists are expected to visit London, Oxfordshire, Stratford-upon-Avon and Scotland, where they will meet the First Minister, Jack McConnell, in Edinburgh Castle. The Duke of York is expected to greet the tourists at the Tower of London later today. Other destinations will include Liverpool (twinned with Shanghai) and Manchester's Old Trafford stadium, where the football team Manchester United play. They have a large following in China and are currently on a Far East tour. They are to play Beijing Hyundai in a friendly match tomorrow.

The visit comes after the London attacks earlier this month provoked fears by the British tourist industry of a reduction in tourism to the UK.

The UK tourist industry hopes that by 2020, Chinese tourism to the UK will bring £500 million pounds (about $878 million US dollars) annually to the UK economy.