China's holiday week boosts London as tourists cash in on weak pound

Key Points
  • China's National Day Golden Week holiday is well underway, unleashing the spending power of 1.4 billion Chinese on the world's entertainment and tourism industries
  • London's Hippodrome Casino told CNBC that the U.K.'s capital could see up to 300,000 more Chinese visitors this week
  • International spending in London continues to rise with tourists taking advantage of the weak British pound, still down since June 2016's Brexit vote
Lanterns strung across Gerrard Street in Chinatown, London, as preparations are made ahead of the Chinese New Year celebrations in January 2017.
Victoria Jones | PA Images | Getty Images

A week-long national holiday in China is providing a much-needed boost for the entertainment and retail industry in London, with Chinese tourists taking advantage of the dip in exchange rates.

China's National Day Golden Week holiday is arguably one of the biggest events in the consumer calendar. Now halfway through its duration, the spending power of 1.4 billion Chinese has been unleashed on the world's entertainment and tourism industries.

London, in which the Brexit-weakened pound has proved a boon for international visitors looking for a better deal, has already been enjoying a bumper week. The Hippodrome Casino, located near tourist hotspot Leicester Square, has said that the U.K.'s capital could see up to 300,000 more Chinese visitors this week. This is a marked increase on the 54,000 Chinese visitors to the U.K. in the first quarter of 2017, a figure which was already up 27 percent year-on-year.

According to the New West End Company, citing figures from retail research firm Global Blue, international spending in London's West End in July 2017 had risen by 20 percent year-on-year. Chinese shoppers spent the most, shelling out an average of £1,478 ($1,946) at each transaction. The number of visitors specifically from the Middle Kingdom had also grown 31 percent year-on-year in July.

"Demand is sure to continue throughout Golden Week," Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of the New West End Company, a body representing the area, said in a statement Friday.

'The growth trend of Chinese consumer demand is inexorable'

Ian Haworth, head of PR at the Hippodrome, which claims to be the U.K.'s largest international-style casino, told CNBC that Golden Week had been important to the business since it opened in 2012. As part of this effort, it currently employs 12 Mandarin or Cantonese-speaking staff.

Meanwhile, Aspers Casino in Stratford told CNBC that it had hosted a VIP party in honor of Golden Week.

Chinese tourism to the U.K. across the board is ballooning. According to VisitBritain, the U.K.'s official tourism board, citing data from ForwardKeys, flight bookings from China to the U.K. for the September to November period of 2017 are up 10 percent year-on-year.

VisitBritain added in its statement that it would be sending a "large scale travel trade mission" to China in November. Destination Britain China would involve the meeting of 65 U.K. tourism companies with China's "top travel agents" in Guangzhou.

But while international spending in London's tourist hotspots is on the up, some dark clouds loom on the horizon. Sterling, despite recovering some losses since its initial plummet following the U.K.'s vote to exit the European Union, is still down some 12 percent since before June 2016's referendum.

"Many retailers have concerns about domestic consumer confidence and rising costs as we await firm plans for our exit from the European Union," Tyrrell warned in his statement.

Correction: This article was amended to clarify that London, not the Hippodrome Casino specifically, could see up to 300,000 more Chinese tourists this Golden Week.