Chi­nese vis­i­tors bring new pres­sures to cities in UK

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By WANG MINGJIE in Lon­don wang­mingjie@ mail.chi­nadai­lyuk.com

Tourism pro­vides 2.8 per­cent of the UK’s gross do­mes­tic prod­uct. But some smaller cities are be­gin­ning to feel over­whelmed by the num­ber of tourists, and that the costs are be­gin­ning to out­weigh the ben­e­fits.

Cities such as Ox­ford and Cam­bridge are usu­ally packed with tourists dur­ing the sum­mer months, and lo­cal of­fi­cials have started to com­plain.

The uni­ver­sity cities at­tract many Chi­nese stu­dents, and Chi­nese tourists are vis­it­ing the UK in in­creas­ing num­bers. But the com­plaints are di­rected at tourists in gen­eral, not a spe­cific na­tion­al­ity.

John Hip­kin, a Cam­bridge city coun­cilor, told the Guardian: “Tourism is a great part of mod­ern life. But if it gets out of hand, it can threaten the char­ac­ter of tourist des­ti­na­tions.”

One of the at­trac­tions of Cam­bridge is punt­ing on the River Cam — pole-driven boat­ing — but the coun­cil banned punt op­er­a­tors from ad­ver­tisun­doubt­edly ing and in­tro­duced a fine of 75 pounds ($98) last year.

Doc­tor Paul Hanna, lec­turer in sus­tain­able tourism at the Uni­ver­sity of Sur­rey, said: “The case in Cam­bridge is an ex­am­ple of this ‘tip­ping point’ hav­ing been reached, where lo­cal res­i­dents no longer see tourists as in­come gen­er­a­tors, but rather they ex­pe­ri­ence ir­ri­ta­tion and anger to­ward the in­bound tourists that are dis­rupt­ing and frag­ment­ing nor­mal so­cial life.”

James Ken­nell, prin­ci­pal lec­turer in tourism at the Uni­ver­sity of Green­wich, agreed that many des­ti­na­tions are now feel­ing the neg­a­tive im­pacts of ris­ing tourist num­bers.

“Small, his­toric towns and cities strug­gle to ac­com­mo­date in­creas­ing num­bers of large groups, along with meet­ing the needs of in­di­vid­ual trav­el­ers. The growth of ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions like Airbnb means that des­ti­na­tion man­agers are find­ing it ever harder to know how many tourists are vis­it­ing their des­ti­na­tion,” he said.

Tourism ex­perts say that ris­ing num­bers of Chi­nese tourists to the UK are hav­ing an im­pact on the growth of the tourism sec­tor, but they are a small pro­por­tion of the to­tal. How­ever, they be­lieve that as Chi­nese tourists have be­gun to ven­ture far­ther out­side of Lon­don, in groups or as in­de­pen­dent trav­el­ers, they are hav­ing a much big­ger im­pact in smaller towns and cities.

De­spite the down­side, China is in­dis­putably the most valu­able mar­ket for in­ter­na­tional tourism spend­ing. Trav­el­ers from China spent $261 bil­lion abroad in 2016, ac­cord­ing to VisitBri­tain, the UK’s na­tional tourism or­ga­ni­za­tion.

More than 260,000 hol­i­day­mak­ers from China spent more than 500 mil­lion pounds in the UK last year, and stu­dents ac­count for 42 per­cent of Chi­nese vis­i­tors spend­ing the night in the UK.

Ken­nell said Chi­nese tourism is a huge op­por­tu­nity for the UK, but he be­lieves it needs to be planned and man­aged sus­tain­ably.

“If Chi­nese vis­i­tors go to cities like Cam­bridge and find it over­crowded and not like they imag­ined, they won’t come back,” he said.

TAN XI / FOR CHINA DAILY

The Uni­ver­sity of Cam­bridge has be­come a pop­u­lar tourism des­ti­na­tion for Chi­nese peo­ple.

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