THEY are viewed as the most lucrative tourists in the world, the growing numbers of young middle class Chinese with higher than average disposable incomes.

Now one of Scotland’s leading distillers is hosting nearly 800 visitors and are offering a crash course in Scottish culture, complete with full Highland dress for the visitors, in a bid to cash in on the growing Chinese love of all things Scottish.

Such is the demand for Scots products, the Chinese even have their own names for Highland Games, strongman kilty party, baa baa pudding, haggis and malt whisky which they cryptically call Trail Fragrant Liqueur Lane. Now as the Chinese spending power grows, wealthy tourists are being offered bespoke tours which are aimed at boosting visitor numbers, as well as selling more to China.

Chinese visitor numbers to the UK are expected to rise by almost 50% - from 260,000 to 384,000 - over the next five years, VisitBritain predicts.

Scotland currently accounts for almost one fifth (17%) of all of those coming to the UK from the country.

VisitScotland says the rise in visitors from China is expected to be driven by the young adult traveller, saying “millennials are seen as a growing target market”.

New figures show how important Chinese tourists are becoming to the Scottish economy. Spending by Chinese tourists increased by 414% between 2007 and 2016, from £7 million to £36 million.

Over the same period the number of Chinese visitors to Scotland increased by 192%; 41,000 visits were recorded in 2016.

Pernod Ricard is targeting the country’s younger generation and its expanding middle classes who have higher disposable incomes.

More than 750 Chinese tourists will land later this week for a four-day tour that will see them immerse themselves in all aspects of Scottish culture.

They will visit the most famous whisky region of Speyside where they will tour the Strathisla Distillery, the world-renowned Glenlivet Distillery which was the first licensed one in the area and then Aberlour.

The visitors will also be invited to don kilts and sashes at a Highland dinner where they will have the opportunity to taste some of the best Scotland has to offer. Other excursions will include a trip to Loch Ness to try to spot the famous monster and no trip to Scotland would be complete without a visit to a football match and the group will take part in a tournament at Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s stadium.

The trip is part of a drive to improve sales in the vast Communist state with the country representing more than half of the global whisky trade with 25 bottles of Scotch exported to China every minute.

Neil MacDonald, Brand Experience Director, Chivas Brothers, said: “We are delighted to be able to host our colleagues from China and show them all the wonderful sights and industries we have to offer here in Scotland.

“Visiting the birthplace of our brands and becoming immersed in their craftsmanship and heritage really is the best way to understand what makes each of them unique.

“The experiences that our Chinese colleagues have in Scotland, the people they meet, the Scottish celebrations and being at our distilleries will fuel their personal story-telling to colleagues, consumers and trade back in China.

“This creates even stronger opportunities for our brands and Scotch whisky as a whole.

“China is a very important market for us, and we expect its significance will only continue to grow over the coming years.

“By fostering even stronger ties with our colleagues, we’re confident this trip will help us build on our solid partnership for the future.”

It comes as the number of visitors travelling to the UK from China is expected to soar from fewer than 500 in 1996 to almost 500,000 by 2026, a report from VisitBritain states.

Chinese tourists spent more than £513 million in the UK last year, but the figure is set to rise sharply.

Visits abroad have more than doubled in five years, from about 41 million overnight stays in 2011 to 85 million by 2016. By 2020 it is forecast to exceed 110 million trips overseas, In Scotland, visitor numbers have been boosted by the popularity of whisky, which has resulted in a surge of visits to distilleries.

The number of visitors to Scotland’s distilleries reached an all-time high of 1.7 million in 2016, an increase of 8% on the previous year, and the Scotch Whisky Association recognises the Chinese influx played a part in this increase.

Research shows the average age of Chinese visitors to the UK is younger than the average age of inbound travellers.

In 2016, half of Chinese visitors were aged 25-44 and it is estimated that 60% were aged 18 to 34.

Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness are known to be the favourite locations in Scotland for Chinese travellers to visit.

A growing number of Chinese have an estimated £20million or more in liquid financial assets who are below the age of 30.

Whisky sales in China leapt in 2017 with imports of 17.4 million litres, representing a year-on-year growth of 19.5%.

Whisky is the third most popular alcoholic drink among Chinese people, with consumption growing more than 83% over the past five years.