News

Government aim of UK becoming China's best partner is "total twaddle" says Harrods MD

3 min read

30 September 2015

The managing director of Harrods, Michael Ward, has been non-too-quite about how government policies are deterring wealthy visitors from spending money in the UK.

People from China spent £50m on Visa cards in the UK during July, overtaking French and Australian visitors to become the second highest spending tourists in the UK, according to Chinese Visa Card. Experts have thus started debating whether the retail industry will become more accommodating of Chinese visitors during peak holiday weeks.

And with China expected to be the world’s largest economy by 2030, chancellor George Osborne recently said: “There are those that say we should fear China’s rise – that we should somehow guard ourselves against it. But we reject such thinking, which would simply leave the UK slipping behind. Instead, we should embrace it.”

However, Ward has claimed that Osbourne’s aim of Britain becoming China’s “best partner in the West” is “total twaddle”. 

He warned that a stamp duty tax raid on the London property market could damage Britain’s luxury markets by putting off wealthy visitors. He described the move as “probably inappropriate”.

Read more on business in China:

“The short-term impact is that the market for £2m plus houses has now dried up,” he said. “They are never full-time residents, but most of them like to have more permanent residencies rather than just staying in hotels or having serviced apartments. Most of our customers have a residence here as well as having residences elsewhere.”

He also claimed that the Chinese visa application process and sanctions on non-doms had a part to play in turning visitors away. 

Ward added: “We should be more welcoming to different nationalities.”

He suggested that while London was “doing OK”, it still wasn’t doing well.

Furthermore, he compared it to the feeling someone gained upon entering another person’s house – you instantly know whether you are welcome or not. And in terms of the UK, Ward is convinced that visitors will feel the latter. 

Ward, whose company is owned by the Qatar Investment Authority, said that if wealthy visitors switched to other European locations for their breaks it would adversely affect Britain’s luxury goods industries.