Chinese tourists in London's Leicester Square during the Olympics. (Photo/Xinhua)
If spending money at the London Olympics were an event, the Chinese would certainly capture the gold medal by a landslide.
Chinese tourists pulling out their wallets has apparently become an ubiquitous sight in London, whether it is in the city's traditional shopping districts like Oxford Street and Bond Street or in the newly developed malls at the Olympic Park.
During the first week of the Olympics, visitors from China have blown away the competition in the shopping stakes by spending an average of £203 (US$316) per transaction, according to a credit card company surveyed by China's Shenzhen Economic Daily newspaper.
The London Information Centre reported Aug. 2 that international visitors to the city had spent a total of £445 million (US$694 million) in one week. China accounted for the largest portion of that amount, outspending second-place United Arab Emirates by more than 10%.
London vendors have welcomed Chinese visitors with open arms. Major department stores such as Selfridges and Westfield all provide facilities for Chinese credit cards so that Chinese visitors can use their domestic cards. The words "Welcome to London" written in Chinese can even be seen hanging from the Westfield shopping center at London's Olympic Park, as well as on the T-shirts of the staff working there.
Harrods department store on Knightsbridge is one of the most popular destinations for Chinese tourists, as is the Bicester Village discount outlet about an hour away.
A Chinese shopper surnamed Luo from Zhejiang province told the Shenzhen Economic Daily that she did not hesitate in purchasing two Bally handbags at Harrods because they were 3,000 to 4,000 yuan (US$475-$630) cheaper than back home. "One is for me, one is for my mother," she said.
Luo, who can only speak a few works of English, said she had no problems at all communicating with sales staff because many of them were proficient in Mandarin and Cantonese. The staff also voluntarily provided her with information for claiming back tax at Heathrow Airport, including a special pamphlet written completely in Chinese, she added.
At the recent 2012 Walpole British Luxury Summit, industry experts all agreed that Chinese tourists are the main driving force behind luxury good consumption. Liu Huixin, who specializes in China affairs at VisitBritain, the UK's national tourism agency, said the spending of Chinese tourists during the last Christmas period so astounded locals that the British media coined the term "Peking Pound" as a reference to their extraordinary spending habits, along with the joke that London's shopping district had become the "Great Mall of China."