With their shelves spilling over with festive goodies, London’s department stores are working hard to attract Christmas shoppers — but Chinese visitors are the particular target of a charm offensive.
Hotels, retailers and the government are stepping up efforts to woo big-spending Chinese visitors in a bid to bounce back from Britain’s longest recession in half a century.
Congee and dumplings are on the breakfast menu at enterprising hotels, major London stores have installed Chinese bank card terminals, and Mandarin-speaking staff are on hand to help out with the Christmas shopping.
Britain is courting Chinese travelers not only because they are a rapidly growing market — they made an estimated 70 million overseas trips in 2011, up 20 percent in just a year — but because they are serious shoppers.
The renowned Harrods department store, in London’s exclusive Knightsbridge district, now has 70 Mandarin-speaking staff and more than 100 China Union Pay terminals allowing direct payment from Chinese bank accounts.
A Harrods spokeswoman said jewelery and watches, fashion and fine wines were top of the shopping list for many Chinese customers.
A record 149,000 Chinese visitors came to Britain last year, bringing some 240 million pounds to the struggling economy.