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An alliance of British retail and tourism businesses is calling on the government to make 10-year tourist visas the default offering to Chinese visitors.
Research by the UK China Visa Alliance (UKCVA) shows that the move would boost annual visitor numbers from China by almost 265,000 a year and bring in about £337 million in additional revenue for UK businesses.
At the same time the Home Office would save £19.5 million each year in visa administration costs.
The UK issues nearly 400,000 visitor visas in China per year – the majority of which are provided at a cost to the taxpayer and grant visitors access for just six months.
The UKCVA claims its proposals would see the costs of provision cut while also encouraging more Chinese visitors to Britain.
A similar move by the US saw the number of visas issued in China grow by 68%.
At £737, current 10-year visas are deemed a considerable investment for Chinese visitors, particularly in addition to the cost of a Schengen visa.
A total of 1.4 million Schengen visas were issued to Chinese visitors last year, while only 390,000 UK visas were issued.
This was said to underline the potential market which would be expected to respond positively to UKCVA’s initiative.
If predictions are correct, this would result in an extra £337 million spent by Chinese visitors in the country each year, based on VisitBritain’s estimate of the amount spent by Chinese visitors in the UK in 2014.
The UKCVA proposal would see the cost of 10-year visas cut to £135 to cover the administration fee and provide some additional income.
With the purchase of a 10-year visa, Chinese visitors could be free to travel the UK and also the rest of Europe for a decade with only one more visa required per trip – increasing the attraction of repeat visits and streamlining the administration process facing prospective tourists.
It would also ensure that Chinese nationals with family living or studying in the UK could travel more regularly to the UK for a much more affordable price.
Research by tax-free shopping network Global Blue shows that Chinese visitors spent the second highest of all the nations recorded per visit to London at £1,196, only second to visitors from Qatar at £1,352 per visit in August.
New West End Company, which represents West End retailers in London and is a founding member of UKCVA, is one of the organisations championing the initiative.
Chief executive, Richard Dickinson, said: “A move to make 10-year visas more affordable would help bring high net worth tourists to our shores and allow us to ward off competition from other global destinations.
“It is proving uncompetitive to force Chinese visitors to obtain two visas every time they wish to visit the UK and Paris.
“Instead, this move will draw in thousands more tourists every year, and save millions of pounds in administration fees at the same time.”
John Dickie, director of policy and strategy at London First, a founding member and the primary funder of UKCVA, said: “The changes we have suggested would be a win-win for the government and for businesses.
“Not only would they give us a bigger share of the world’s largest tourist market, they would encourage these lucrative visitors to come back again and again.
“It would be another step in the right direction for a government that is building a good record in this area, as demonstrated by its efforts to streamline the UK and Schengen visas process.”
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