The UK Home Office has defended the "excellent" visa system for Chinese visitors after a Hotels.com survey called for a simpler process.
As Travel Weekly reported yesterday, the results of the annual Chinese International Travel Monitor (CITM) of 3,000 Chinese residents found 19% say that the ease of applying for a visa is the top priority when planning a trip abroad.
Hotels.com said the Home Office's current plan to work with travel agents and tour operators to make it easier for Chinese travellers to apply for a British visa along with the European Schengen visa was failing to address the growing number of independent travellers.
Responding to the survey, a Home Office spokesperson said: “Our Chinese visa system already provides an excellent service. The report shows that the UK is the top European destination, after France, that Chinese visitors wish to visit in the next 12 months.
"China is one of the UK's priority markets for tourism and business and according to the latest VisitBritain statistics, visitor numbers from China are up around 40%compared to the same period last year.
“We will continue to make further improvements wherever appropriate, for visitors travelling independently or as part of a group, but we will not compromise the security of our border.”
Paul Barnes, spokesman for lobby group China Visa Alliance, said while the Chinese are happy to travel to other Asian countries independently, most travel to the UK with a tour operator.
The alliance, which represents retailers including Selfridges and John Lewis, has welcomed the government's proposal to find a way in which tour operators can apply for both the UK and Schengen visa at the same time on behalf of their clients. However, it believes there is a need to address independent travellers.
Barnes told Travel Weekly: "There is a frustration that the UK does not get as many Chinese visitors as its European neighbours. The government has accepted the issue and is looking for solutions. The government sees things the same way as we do."
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