Jeremy Hunt has launched an £8 million advertising campaign designed to triple the number of Chinese visitors to the United Kingdom over the next three years.
The secretary of state for culture, Olympics, media and sport said the initiative was part of a wider drive to “turbo-charge” the tourism sector in the wake of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
“The Olympics should be for Britain what Usain Bolt is for athletics - something that grabs the attention of the whole world and refuses to let go,” he told an audience at the Tate Modern in London this morning.
As many as 150,000 visitors from China arrived in the UK in 2011.
However, this is significantly lower than numbers seen in rival German and French markets, Hunt said.
In an effort to boost the figure, the GREAT advertising campaign will be expanded beyond Beijing and Shanghai into second tier Chinese cities.
Officials would also look at streamlining the visa application process, Hunt added.
It is hoped the drive will add as much as £0.5 billion in tourism spending by 2015, creating 14,000 more jobs in the UK.
The move toward China was welcomed by VisitBritain.
“This is a market worth competing for - one we need to regard as a marathon rather than a sprint,” read a statement from the organisation.
Alongside improving visa processes, VisitBritain said increased flight connections with China, a broader range of British product is sold through the travel trade and a boost to the national image through the GREAT campaign would be useful in achieving an increase in visitor numbers.
International tourism delivers £18 billion each year to the British economy, with 31 million overseas guests arriving last year.
Hunt also today restated the target of boosting the number to 40 million visits a year by 2020, which would deliver £21 billion additional spend and support for 530,000 additional jobs across Britain.
However, UKinbound sounded a note of caution, pointing to high air passenger duty, lack of airport capacity in the south-east of England and the lack of a risk based approach to the processing of visas as potential stumbling blocks for tourism growth.