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Moves to create ‘one stop shop’ visa processing to make it easier for Chinese travellers to visit the UK has been welcomed by the industry.
The pilot scheme from July 1 will enable Chinese residents to visit UK visa application centres in Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai and apply for both a UK and Schengen visa at the same time.
The British Hospitality Association as part of the UK China Visa Alliance has been campaigning to improve access for Chinese visitors.
The association has also been working directly with the Home Office and the UK Border Agency to identify the issues and how they impact the UK economy.
The UK loses out on an estimated £1.2 billion a year because the country attracts far fewer Chinese tourists than other European countries.
Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the BHA, said: “By 2023, China will be the largest outbound tourism economy in the world so it is important that the UK makes every effort to welcome the Chinese traveller into our country.
“The government’s decision to streamline the visa application process for Chinese visitors with Schengen is a long-awaited victory for common sense, our economy and the hospitality and tourism industry.
“The BHA with its partners in the UKCVA has for many years has called on the Home Office to create a shared visa application centre for UK and Schengen visas – a one stop shop – to simplify administration and make the UK an accessible destination.
“There could be no better time to implement this change as recent ONS data showed a 17% drop in 2014 of Chinese business travellers compared to 2013.
“Today’s announcement is another step in the right direction to drive growth and jobs at a crucial time in the UK’s recovery.”
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