Jack Busby, Centre Director at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth, explains why the Chinese city of Zhuhai wants to emulate the Gunwharf model.
I have just returned from China as part of a delegation led by the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth to establish a friendship agreement with Zhuhai, in the Guangdong province.
Zhuhai, though little known in the UK, has a population of 1.5 million – more than 7 times that of Portsmouth. But, like Portsmouth, it is a city with a maritime and engineering heritage, a coastal location and a growing tourism sector.
Zhuhai is keen to develop its marina and coastline and exploit its natural features to attract both domestic and international tourist spend. That’s why, after visiting Portsmouth last year and falling in love with Gunwharf Quays, Zhuhai would like to develop its own version of Land Securities’ scheme.
Gunwharf Quays is the South of England’s premium outlet destination, attracting more than 8 million visitors a year to its attractive marina location, its shops and waterfront restaurants and bars.
Zhuhai by contrast has no commercial development in its chosen location, which is a working harbour for around 400 fishing boats. The city looked to us for advice on how to transform the area into a thriving retail destination.
The first point we made was the value there will be in preserving the existing fishing industry, not least because it will add authenticity to the destination. By focusing on the commercial and retail development and creating an inviting, attractive centre that people want to visit, Zhuhai will start to draw the yachting industry it is keen to attract. The development of a marina can follow to meet visitor demand.
Gunwharf Quays’ success stems from its diverse offering. The combination of top retail and leisure facilities combined with its waterfront location draws people from across the world to visit the harbour’s restaurants, bars and hotel. Creating diversity at Zuhai will be integral to it becoming an established tourist destination.
Zhuhai has great potential to become an even bigger tourism hub. It will undoubtedly see huge benefit from the 50km Hong Kong – Zhuhai – Macau Bridge – a series of bridges and tunnels to connect the three major cities, which is due to open in 2016.
The desire to attract tourist spend is universal and applies just as much in Portsmouth as in Zhuhai – research shows that overseas tourists spend nearly twice as much as their domestic counterparts.
At Gunwharf Quays we are about to kick off a three year strategy to build greater tourism trade partnerships in the UK and abroad, and in Zhuhai I started to establish tourism links with the city at a meeting with the Department for Cultural Affairs and Tourism.
It’s very exciting that another country has found Gunwharf Quays such an attractive, vibrant destination that they want their own version at home, and I am looking forward to growing our relationship with Zhuhai as their plans come to fruition.
This blog originally appeared on www.landsecurities.com