According to VisitBritain, the number of visitors from China was up 37% in the first nine months of 2015, smashing previous records. The new two-year visa system for Chinese nationals visiting the UK is expected to boost traffic in 2016.
There were 214,000 visits from China from January to September, beating the number of visits for all of 2014, with figures for the last quarter of 2015 still to come. Spend was up 4% over the same period, to £435 million.
As Chinese New Year approaches on 8 February, Britain is gearing up to host some of the largest celebrations outside Asia from lantern parades in Manchester and London's Chinatown to festivals and events in Glasgow, Birmingham, Newcastle and Bristol, among others. The Chinese New Year will be another boost from China.
Chinese visitors are already some of the UK's highest spenders, spending on average £2,688 a head. VisitBritain has ambitions to double spend from Chinese visitors to £1 billion by 2020.
VisitBritain Director Patricia Yates said, "China is the world's largest outbound market and a huge tourism opportunity for Britain. Chinese New Year is traditionally one of the busiest travel times for Chinese travelers and we want Britain to be at the top of their list as a must-go now destination."
VisitBritain has forecast that growth in inbound tourism looks set to continue in 2016 for numbers and spend.
In spite of the strength of Sterling, spending by overseas visitors is predicted to reach almost £23 billion in 2016, a 4.2% increase on last year.
The number of overseas visitors to the UK is expected to rise to 36.7million visits, up 3.8% on 2015.
The forecast puts VisitBritain on track to realize its ambition for growing international visits to Britain by more than 20% over the next five years to 42 million visits by 2020, which could see an additional £4.5 billion in visitor spend.