Paris is gaining an advantage over London in a battle to secure the hearts, minds, and crucially, wallets of Chinese tourists.
Increasingly, Chinese tourists are choosing to fly to France's capital for their luxury shopping trip, instead of to London. The bureaucratic difficulties that London has faced in bringing Chinese tourists into the country has slowed its progress compared to Paris, with entry into France relatively easy for Chinese tourists.
The drive to gain more Chinese shoppers is part of an official city policy to make Paris the number one shopping destination for Chinese tourists, who are becoming increasingly affluent, and are keen to spend their money on high-end designer goods.
François Navarro, a spokesperson for the regional tourism authority of Ile-de-France, claimed that it was all-out war in the battle for Chinese shoppers, saying, "let's be perfectly clear, this is a competition with London, this is a battle between cities. Our goal is that Chinese visitors come to Paris, stay for longer and spend more money.”
France is part of the Shengen area, a group of European countries that only require a single visa, making international travel to, and between them, much easier than to Britain, which is not part of the group. France has also recently opened a visa office in Beijing, helping tourists to gain their visas more quickly and easily.
A recent report, titled Do You Speak Tourist?, stated that France had become the preferred destination for the growing number of China’s millionaires. The report also stated that Chinese tourists spend up to 40 per cent of their holiday budget on shopping.
The Chinese market really is of crucial importance to London and Paris, and Britain’s tourism authorities will be keen to do more to lure Chinese visitors to the city and gain ground in the battle for the tourist shopper.