A government pledge to simplify the visa process for Chinese visitors to the UK following high profile industry lobbying has been welcomed by the British Hospitality Association.
Home secretary Theresa May is seeking to bring in a joint visa application for the UK and the 26 Schengen area countries of Europe.
May said last week: “We’re looking at the process of application for our visas and for the Schengen country visas in China to see if there’s more that we can do to streamline those processes for people.”
The BHA believes this will benefit Chinese tourists by making the process of visiting the UK less expensive and more straightforward.
The association has been working directly with the Home Office and the UK Border Agency to identify the issues and their impact on the UK economy.
France and Germany welcomed more than 1 million visitors from China last year, compared to 215,000 to the UK, with the estimated loss to competitors standing at £1.2 billion of Chinese tourism receipts.
BHA chief executive Ufi Ibrahim said: “By 2023, China will be the largest outbound tourism economy in the world. Therefore, the opportunity for Britain to grow tourism receipts and jobs is unmissable.
“However, steps need to be taken now to ensure that we demonstrate a welcome to the Chinese traveller in time to compete for this significant market opportunity on an international scale.
“Our competitors, France and Germany, are also not going to stand still. They have already demonstrated their keenness to succeed the UK in the bid to grow Tourism exports and jobs.
“So, the BHA, together with the UK China Visa Alliance and its growing number of partners, is encouraged by Theresa May’s announcement.
“We also note that the UK Visas and Immigration Service is making improvements to ensure that some 96% of all Chinese visas are approved and that there is now a seven-day and five-day premium turnaround service from application to issue.
“However, we will continue to campaign on this issue until further changes are made to enable Chinese as well as Russian and Indian visitor numbers to start increasing in line with other European countries.”
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