The managing director of luxury store Harrods has offered to pay for a customs officer to work in the shop and refund foreign tourists their VAT so they don’t have to queue at the airport.
Michael Ward is so frustrated by the ‘customer experience’ tourists receive when traveling to the UK and through its airports that he has offered to fund the initiative in-house.
Chinese visitors, in particular, are known as big spenders but have to go through a complicated visa process to visit the UK.
Ward is worried that by the time they queue again on departure to claim back tax on luxury goods purchased in the UK, they will leave with a negative impression of Britain.
He told the Telegraph: ‘We’ve had people missing their flights because they’ve had to wait more than an hour, and 50pc of all reclaims are given back in pounds, then they have to go to the foreign exchange desk to change their money. We don’t make it a very good experience for them.’
Ward’s comments come just days after VisitBritain launched a ‘charter’ to create a better experience for Chinese tourists.
China is now the world’s largest outbound tourism market and provisional data for 2013 suggests that the number of visitors to Britain from China hit 200,000 for the first time.
Spend figures are even more remarkable, with Chinese visitors parting with over £400 million during the first nine months of 2013 alone.
Harrods has been a founding partner in VisitBritain’s new GREAT China Welcome Chartermark. The idea is to sign up companies and help Chinese visitors to easily find hotels, attractions and tour operators which offer information in Mandarin and other tailored services.
Read more at The Daily Mail.