Tourism cooperation in the Chinese outbound tourism market is a growing phenomenon, and now the United Kingdom’s three largest cities are joining the fold in doing joint marketing in China. Birmingham, London, and Manchester are launching a project called “Experience England” to focus exclusively on the (for England) fastest-growing tourism source markets, namely China, India, and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), i.e., Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman. The project is financed by a UK government grant through VisitEngland.
The 1.2 million pound ($1.68 million) grant was awarded to London & Partners, the Mayor of London’s official promotional agency, and will be divided between marketing activities in the aforementioned three growth regions.
While it may seem surprising that London has vested interests in doing a joint promotion with (arguably competing) destinations in England, there is research to back it up.
According to London & Partners, fewer than a third of visitors to London go beyond the capital to stay somewhere else in the United Kingdom—clearly illustrating tourists’ relative preference of London as a destination. However, the research also showed that the visitor satisfaction level is greatly boosted among travelers who do venture beyond London for their trips. In other words, ensuring that international visitors venture beyond London, for example to Birmingham or Manchester, is in the country’s—and perhaps London’s—best interest. After all, more satisfied visitors are more likely to come back for repeat visits and are also more likely to recommend the destination to their friends and family back home.
Chinese tourists venturing beyond London is actually good for London
“London is home to the 10 most popular tourist attractions in the UK and we’re proud to welcome millions of visitors every year. But it’s important that they have the chance to see what’s on offer in other parts of the country too and I’m committed to working with other cities and regions to use the capital’s reputation to drive tourism across the nation,” the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said in a press statement announcing the Experience England project.
In the Chinese market, the UK’s three biggest cities are far from alone in joining forces with “competitors” to create a stronger value proposition. VisitBritain, an active player in the Chinese market, jointly promotes all the British nations and helps finance and coordinate marketing efforts in markets such as China.
Chinavia, a joint project between national and city tourism boards in Scandinavia, is explicitly meant for coordinating marketing efforts in China. In Eastern Europe, the Central and Eastern Europe Regional Tourism Center works to jointly promote Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia in the Chinese market.
Cooperation in the Chinese tourism market is becoming an international trend
In other words, partnerships between different levels of government to do joint marketing in China is nothing new, and it is becoming a trend—particularly in long-haul markets. With Chinese tourists predominantly preferring multi-destination vacations, such initiatives reflect the way Chinese consumers like to travel. In places like London, Barcelona, and Prague, it can also help alleviate overtourism concerns while also—at least in the case of London—boosting visitor satisfaction levels.
Multi-destination partnerships also reflect the way that Chinese tourists prefer to travel
The Experience England cities are also among the cities in the United Kingdom with the most experience with Chinese tourism thus far. London, by far the most popular English destination, has only become more popular with Chinese tourists after the cheaper, post-Brexit referendum pound sterling. Meanwhile, Manchester has seen a growing number of Chinese travelers venturing to the city after Hainan Airlines started running direct flights from China. Birmingham, meanwhile, was once the first non-London city in the United Kingdom with direct flight connections to China. No longer receiving any direct flights from China, Birmingham is perhaps the destination that stands to gain the most from the Experience England marketing push in China.