BUSINESSES in Oxfordshire are chasing Chinese tourists in a bid to capitalise on growing visitor numbers.

Major attractions such as Blenheim Palace and Bicester Village have seen Chinese visitor numbers rise in recent years.

Representatives from both will visit China in November to promote Oxfordshire as a destination.

Now a golf club is planning to train up its staff in Mandarin Chinese to tap in to the market. The Oxfordshire Golf Club at Milton Common, near Thame, is one of four in the country which is set to teach the language to staff members and caddies.

Up to 20 members of staff working on the course are to learn some of the basics of Mandarin – with a golfing twist.

General manager Tim Pettifer said: “The most important thing about the whole initiative is to make people feel welcome.

“We extend that to all our visitors but particularly to anyone from overseas.

“We felt they should be able to greet them, show them the golf course, show them where the first tee is and explain the rudimentary elements of golf etiquette where necessary.”

He said at the moment numbers of Chinese visitors to the course were relatively low, but he anticipated more in the coming months.

Mr Pettifer said: “We’ve had a handful so far but there is an upsurge in the market.

The aim is not to get the staff fluent in the language, but to have a basic vocabulary, and training will start in September.

Linguistics expert Paul Noble will teach the language, providing a grounding in conversation structures and greetings.

Chairman Paul Gibbons said: “The Chinese have developed a love for golf.

“In a tough economic climate when British golf courses are fighting hard to get new members, we felt it logical to reach out to this new tourist group.”

According to Visit Britain, Chinese trips to the UK are set to more than double by 2014, growing by 117 per cent relative to 2008.

Tourism was worth £1.67bn to Oxfordshire in 2009 and attractions say the emerging Chinese market could help boost that figure.

Helen Peters, senior tourism manager at Bicester Village, said 40 per cent of non-European visitors were from China and 75 per cent of international coach tours were from China.

She said: “It is a growing market and it is expected to explode. We translate lots of literature into Chinese and at Marylebone Station the signs to buy a ticket to Bicester Village are translated into Chinese.”

Hannah Payne, marketing manager at Blenheim Palace, said: “As an emerging market and the second biggest economy in the world, China is an important focus for us.”