Thursday, October 22, 2015 - 17:00

The Eden Project and VisitBritain laid on a warm welcome today (Thursday October 22) when a big group of Chinese travel agents visited the home of the world-famous Biomes.

The 29 agents, who come from across China, are on a whistle-stop tour of London and the South of England hosted by VisitBritain and coinciding with the UK state visit of China’s President Xi Jinping.

Eden is a member of the GREAT China Welcome programme, an initiative introduced by VisitBritain in 2014 to help position Britain as the most welcoming destination in Europe for Chinese visitors. The programme has over 350 member hotels, attractions and activities, all of whom excel in looking after Chinese visitors.

Last month Eden signed an agreement to create a spectacular new £100 million China Eden centre in what will be its first big building venture overseas, teaming up with the leading developer China Jinmao Holdings Limited to design and develop an iconic tourism and education project in the city of Qingdao. China Eden will be four times the size of Eden in Cornwall. 

Today’s visit was hosted by Gordon Seabright, Managing Director of the Eden Project, who also sits on the board of Visit Cornwall, and Jo Leslie, China-UK Business Development Manager with VisitBritain.

Gordon Seabright said: “It’s been a real pleasure to welcome our visitors from China and VisitBritain today. We hope the travel agents are excited and inspired by what they have seen and go back to their amazing nation and tell as many people as possible why they should come to the UK, Cornwall and Eden.

“Eden is all about connecting people to each other and the living world. What better way to achieve this than to establish our first overseas Eden in a country with nearly 1.5 billion people, and to welcome as many visitors from China here as possible.” 

Eden has seen a big increase in visitors from China in the last 12 months. Chinese visitors make up about 20 per cent of the overseas tourists who come to Eden in organised groups. 

Jo Leslie of VisitBritain said: "China is one of Britain's fastest growing markets for inbound tourism but for many Chinese people, South West England is not yet on their radar. Showing this influential group of Chinese travel agents the Eden Project and other local treasures is a sure fire way of opening up the possibility for many more of our high spending Chinese visitors to travel down to the South West."

Travel agent Lu Na, of the Woqu travel company based in Shenzhen, China, on her first visit to Cornwall, said she was very impressed with the county and with Eden and thought that the aims of the project would translate very well to China Eden in Qingdao.

She said: “I have been so looking forward to coming to the Eden Project. I’m impressed not just by the plants but the telling of the stories behind them too. It’s a very good educational process. Chinese tourists will love it.”

The agents are part of an eight-day tour to help showcase the excellent welcome that ALL Chinese visitors (not just presidents!) receive in the UK.

VisitBritain says that the number of visits from China from April-June this year was up 35% (to 50,000) on the same period in 2014; and comparing the first six months of 2015 to the same period last year the number of visits was up 28% (to 90,000), a record first six months of the year.

Overall, international visits to Britain from China have more than doubled over the last five years from 89,000 in 2009 to 185,000 in 2014.