Editor’s Note: The United Kingdom has long been one of the most popular travel destinations among Chinese tourists. Following the depreciation of the pound against the Chinese yuan in recent quarters, consumers’ interest in visiting and purchasing luxury items in the country have continued to rise. The huge influx of Chinese tourists represents a golden opportunity for brands and retailers to tap into this growing group’s massive purchasing power. The London Luxury Quarter, the city’s exclusive luxury district, has stepped up its efforts lately to appeal to Chinese consumers, especially the elite class, via the launch of a bespoke appointment service. Jing Travel, Jing Daily’s sister site, had a chance to interview Lady Penny Mountbatten, the brand ambassador for London Luxury Quarter, who discussed the new offering in detail and shared her insights on how to attract Chinese travelers.
London’s exclusive luxury district, the London Luxury Quarter, is introducing a bespoke appointment service tailored for China’s elite—opening the doors to London’s luxury shopping and luxurious experiences for Chinese luxury travelers. Jing Travel had the chance to speak to Lady Penny Mountbatten, brand ambassador for London Luxury Quarter, who delivered etiquette classes to Chinese visitors to the Best of British show where the new service was unveiled.
The London Luxury Quarter traces its origins back to 2010, when the Heart of London Business Alliance and the New West End Company came together to jointly promote the area of Mayfair, Piccadilly, St James’s streets, and anchored around Old and New Bond Street in London as a global luxury destination. Representing some 1,000 businesses located in the area, London Luxury Quarter counts over 100 luxury brands and flagship stores among its ranks, as well as 15 luxury hotels, and restaurants with a combined Michelin star count of 23. In comparison, the whole city of Shanghai has 30 Michelin star-rated restaurants in the 2018 issue of the Michelin Guide.
The company has the vision to become “the world’s number one luxury destination for retail, dining, leisure, and culture,” and is not shy about seeing Chinese luxury travelers as one of the main ways of reaching its goals. At present, Chinese consumers account for close to 25 percent of the area’s approximately 3 billion pounds ($3.95 billion) in annual turnover. However, brand ambassador Lady Penny Mountbatten expects this proportion to continue growing, telling Jing Travel that “this will keep rising as Britain still means so much in the hearts and the minds of the Chinese wanting to educate, do business and add Britain as a destination to experience in their lives.”
To make the travel experience even more attractive to Chinese luxury travelers, the London Luxury Quarter is introducing what it calls “By Appointment” service, which offers members of the Chinese elite a personalized introduction to what London Luxury Quarter has to offer. Tapping into the trend of authentic travel experiences, the new service provides bilingual hosts that help Chinese visitors to make the most out of their visits according to their preferences and interests.
For example, the By Appointment service offers curated tax-free shopping, private appointments, and previews, invitations to exclusive events, guided art gallery and cultural tours, insider access to private clubs, as well as lessons in British etiquette. The intention is that the By Appointment service offers a full suite of experiences and activities for Chinese travelers who are increasingly looking to enjoy not only luxury shopping but also unique luxury travel experiences and exposure to local culture.
As Jing Travel has previously reported, China’s growing number of independent travelers are increasingly looking for “authentic” experiences when they travel abroad, as opposed to following a tour guide or only visiting the most famous tourist sites. This is proving particularly true for higher-revenue market segments as they’re seeking experiences not available in China or as part of guided tours. With travel in general increasingly accessible to China’s middle class, authenticity and uniqueness are becoming important differences that separate luxury travel from mass-market travel.
To learn more about how the London Luxury Quarter views the opportunities in the Chinese market and how it understands Chinese luxury consumer preferences, Jing Travel spoke to brand ambassador Lady Penny Mountbatten, who as part of the Best of British show in Shanghai last week also delivered twice-daily British etiquette classes to curious visitors. Much like the By Appointment Service, the showcase was an exclusive affair branded as an invitation-only “Gentleman’s Club” for China’s elite. Calling the etiquette classes something that was “in true aristocratic fashion,” the event—much like the luxury quarter—is unapologetically catered to the highest end of the Chinese travel market.
Jing Travel: What is the Best of British to Chinese consumers, and does it differ from what is considered the best of British to other groups of visitors?
Lady Penny Mountbatten: The Best of British represents a journey into the world of what makes Britain great and brings to life the brands, the masters, makers and the things that make Britain so unique both as a culture and a destination.
Jing Travel: What are Chinese luxury travelers looking for when they visit the United Kingdom?
Lady Penny Mountbatten: The Chinese are looking for deep and rich experiences that combine the storytelling, provenance, and access to the secrets of a brand or place. Access to behind the scenes, meeting the experts from designers to Royals and being part of experiencing something unique and British.
Jing Travel: China offers an increasing wealth of luxury shopping and luxurious experiences. How does London compete with luxury on Chinese consumers’ doorsteps?
Lady Penny Mountbatten: London is able to offer the authenticity, heritage and design excellence that combined with the art, culture, and food that brings luxury to life. Shopping is enriched with the boutiques, the British brands and flagships emporiums as well as the iconic shopping streets and specialist areas that have the centuries of history behind them.
Jing Travel: You’ve been holding etiquette classes in Shanghai during the Best of British show. What are you teaching, and how has it been received by Chinese visitors?
Lady Penny Mountbatten: The Chinese have been totally enthralled and so eager to learn the way to apply British etiquette across all facets of social, dining and day to day to life. They want the context of the history and the reasons behind the etiquette as well as the real-life examples of how they really apply this.
Jing Travel: How would you define the Chinese luxury lifestyle? How is big part of that lifestyle travel to overseas luxury destinations such as London and the London Luxury Quarter?
Lady Penny Mountbatten: Working with Sinclair & Partners on the London Luxury Quarter has been focused on entwining the pillars of fashion, food, art and culture – but bringing this to life with curated and specialist experiences that reflect the desires and aspirations of the Chinese wanting to learn and be part of a bigger and better experience – part of what makes being British so wonderful. Their appetite for richness.
Jing Travel: What’s your impression of Chinese luxury consumers in the United Kingdom and China? What is particularly important to them?
Lady Penny Mountbatten: The Chinese luxury consumers desire personalized experiences, that enrich their lives; not cookie cutter tours but memories and moments that can reflect upon their status and enrichment as individuals. Their sophisticated and yearning for being part of the British lifestyle is immense. Access to the insider, behind the scenes of brands, meeting designers, masters/makers as well as those brands and people linked to the Royals and history is a driving desire. Being part of the tradition and the British lifestyle is key.