London, July 28 : Britain is going on a charm offensive to lure Chinese travellers to its shores.
Outbound tourism from China is expected to reach 100 million people over the next decade and the UK is determined not to miss out.
The only problem however is that most Chinese have a rather staid picture of Britain, seeing the country as an expensive, old-fashioned, bureaucratic and slightly miserable place to visit that is all about Charles Dickens and Sherlock Holmes.
Visit Britain, the agency responsible for promoting Britain abroad, is leading a "Welcome to Britain taskforce", involving immigration agencies and airport operators, to improve first impressions at the border and beyond.
'Visit Britain' is hoping that the Chinese people think of Salisbury and Coniston instead of Stockholm and Cannes before they book their next holiday to Europe.
In fact, a delegation will be promoting the new concept at the Olympic Games through trade shows, diplomatic meetings and parties at London House, a specially constructed hospitality venue in downtown Beijing featuring British food and music.
"The perceptions of our welcome are not as good as they should be. When the world sees Britain celebrating it will help to change some of those old perceptions that are still defined through the prism of Dickens and Sherlock Holmes," The Times Online quoted Tom Wright, chief executive of Visit Britain, as saying.