Chinese help sought in UK name game

Updated: 2014-12-06 09:10

By Zhao Xinying(China Daily)

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Chinese help sought in UK name game

Crawford Butler, center, the longest serving Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London, stands flanked by John Donald, left, and Andy Merry, nicknamed Beefeaters, as they pose for photo with the first ceramic poppies to be planted as part of an art installation in the dry moat of the tower in London, July 17, 2014. [Photo/IC]

Clad in their ceremonial red tunics and matching high hats, they are one of the most recognizable sights in London.

Now, Beefeaters - sentinels of the Tower of London - are in line to be given a Chinese name by Chinese people.

The naming contest is part of an online campaign by Britain's tourism agency, which is inviting Chinese participants to name 101 quintessentially British items, people and places.

The campaign, which lasts until mid-February, covers nine themes, including royalty, events, film, literature, castles, food and drink.

Patricia Yates, director of strategy and communications at VisitBritain, the national tourism agency, said the campaign is unique to China.

She said Chinese people have a lot of creativity and like to name places, so the move is "an opportunity to start a dialogue and conversation".

"I don't think the campaign would work in any other markets. It's really tailor-made and specific."

Sebastian Wood, the British ambassador to China, said the UK has many places that need Chinese names. He recalled that during the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010, Chinese Internet users came up with a "brilliant" name for the British pavilion through an online competition.

"It was pugongying, or dandelion," a word whose pronunciation in Mandarin suggests something England-related, Wood said.

"I don't believe any professional advertising company could come up with the name, and in the online vote, everybody said it was the best name. It was a very good and appropriate name, as it was just like the design of the pavilion," he said.

"I'm very confident that Chinese people, when presented with the challenge of choosing the right names for famous locations or buildings in Britain, will come up with far better names than any tourism company could possibly think of."

Costing 1.6 million pounds ($2.5 million), the online naming event is part of a broader campaign launched by the British tourism agency in 2012 to attract more tourists from China and elsewhere to explore the UK.

Yates said: "China is a very competitive market. We want Great Britain to continue to be somewhere that Chinese visitors love to come."

The theme of the campaign this time is to let people know more about the UK, including its culture, heritage and beautiful countryside, she said.

Statistics from VisitBritain show that China, with 196,000 tourists visiting Britain and spending nearly half a billion pounds in 2013, is one of the most important tourism markets for the UK.

In recent years, the UK Visas and Immigration office has made several improvements to its visa system in China, including a 24-hour service and a visa that allows Chinese to make multiple visits to the UK within 10 years.

Yates said Britain hopes to see Chinese visitors spend 1 billion pounds and welcome 650,000 Chinese by 2020.