LONDON, May 22 (Xinhua) -- Figures published Monday showed a 31-percent increase in tour operator holiday bookings this year to the British capital from China.
Tourism officials in London said the number of Chinese visitors in the past five years has more than doubled, with 165,000 Chinese people heading to the city last year.
Spending has also gone up thanks to Chinese visitors getting more sterling for their yuan. Latest figures showed that between January and March 2017, London's luxury quarter saw a 39-percent increase in tax-free shopping for designer handbags, clothes and jewellery by Chinese tourists, compared to the same period in 2016.
London is also becoming more China-friendly, with train announcements in Mandarin at the city's Marylebone station.
GuideLondon.org.uk, a professional body of London's Blue Badge tourist guides, has trained 27 more Mandarin-speaking and nine Cantonese-speaking guides to keep up with growing demand.
Heng Chen, a Mandarin-speaking London Blue Badge guide, said: "Most of the Chinese people coming to the UK are first-time visitors, and they are quite curious about many things. The Mandarin train announcements at Marylebone station have been warmly received. There are also a significantly increasing number of Mandarin-speaking trained shop assistants in many places, which is another welcoming sign. The next step might be more Chinese signs in public places."
Many of London's museums and galleries now offer interpreters and specialist tours in Mandarin and Cantonese. At the British Museum, 50 percent of audio guide sales are now in Mandarin.
Chinese New Year 2018 in London will have a new digital home on www.VisitLondon.com, the city's official visitor website.
Julie Chappell, chief digital officer at VisitLondon.com, said: "London is making sure Chinese visitors are welcome to our attractions, shops, restaurants and museums. VisitLondon.com wants to strengthen ties with the Chinese community so we are proud to be hosting the official visitor website to drive more international and Chinese tourists to the Chinatown area to experience its special events."
The new figures were released by London and Partners, the Mayor of London's official promotional agency, with the purpose of supporting Mayor Sadiq Khan's priority to promote London internationally.