BFC's Tillman: we need more tourists

British Fashion Council Chairman Harold Tillman said that Chinese shoppers could save the UK high street and boost employment—if only the government would make it easier for them to visit.

The restrictive visa rules currently in place deprive the UK retail sector from ‘billions’ of pounds in potential profits, Tillman told The Independent.

‘We’re not giving them enough in this country,’ he told the paper. ‘It’s only a matter of changing the system and getting the Government to understand we’re losing billions.’

Relaxing the requirements would lead to healthier employment ‘because of all the business we could do’ and stimulate economic growth, Tillman added.


‘It's not just about retail and fashion: it's about hotels, restaurants, theatre. And it's not just London—tourists want to travel.’

Brands including Burberry have credited affluent Chinese tourists with improving their bottom lines. The average Chinese visitor to the UK spends nearly £1,700, or three times more than the average, according to VisitBritain. The influence is so convincing that last year, Harrods staffed the sales floor with Mandarin-speaking assistants to smooth the way to the tills.

‘I think we've always been seen as frivolous,’ Tillman said of the £21bn sector he represents. ‘Exaggerated and not taken seriously. So one of things I'm trying to do continually is get the message out there about how serious it really is.’

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