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Business Comment

Ben Chu: It takes effort to sell to the Chinese

Outlook Something that would help secure a recovery is an increase in tourism. Chinese tourism in particular. Visitors from that part of the world are estimated to spend around £1,688 each in the shops of West End, versus £567 for tourists of other nationalities.

This was a statistic that emerged from a conference hosted by China Edge in London's May Fair hotel this week. Its purpose was to help retailers understand how they can attract wealthy Chinese to their outlets.

There has been much grumbling about the UK visa restrictions placed on Chinese visitors. That's legitimate since the bureaucracy is excessive. Chinese people have to turn up at a British consulate before their holiday with two biometric forms of identification and details of their bank account. Word had it that even the mayor of Guangzhou's wife was turned down for a visa a few years ago.

Unsurprisingly Chinese tourists often end up doing their shopping in France, where it's far easier to get in.

Yet some find the moaning from retailers hard to stomach. "All these lobby groups like the Bond Street Association have been highly critical of the government, but they have done nothing themselves," says one frustrated PR man. "They have no presence in China and they've done nothing on the web to attract Chinese tourists … they want ministers to do it all for them." Ouch.