That’s just one of the messages being voiced today by Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association (BHA), who is speaking to 450 industry leaders gathered at the Hospitality & Tourism Summit taking place at the InterContinental London Park Lane.
“In a national travel and tourism strategy, the US Government recognises that changes need to be made to secure its share of international visitors,” said Ibrahim. “It’s acknowledged that visa policy reform is key to the future prosperity of the industry - and the country as a whole.
US government departments have been tasked with working together to deliver faster visa processing times and have set a goal of attracting 100 million visitors by 2021, which will bring $250bn in visitor spending each year.
Reforms to the US visa process have included reducing waiting times and increasing resources for processing. In China, waiting times have been reduced from 90 days to seven days in just four months.
Ibrahim added: “Without compromising security, this is a move that must be followed by the British government if we are to compete on the world stage.
“Britain cannot afford to continue to deter visitors by complicated tourist visa processing procedures, which are also costly, A Schengen visa is required in addition to a British visa if visitors want to visit other EU countries.
“According to the Tourism Alliance, Britain has a 0.25 per cent share of the Chinese market. Increasing that to 2.5 per cent could add more than £2bn to the UK economy and create over 40,000 jobs.”
UK hotels losing out…
Angela Brav, the chief executive for InterContinental Hotels Group Europe, said that the company would welcome changes to the UK’s visa regime.
“We know UK hotels are losing out to other destinations because of the current visa policy. Tours to Europe no longer include the UK because it’s too difficult to get a visa, which means we miss out on a significant number of bookings.
“Our InterContinental Paris Le Grand does not face the same challenges as the InterContinental London Park Lane, because visitors to France only need to apply for a Schengen visa.
“Our growth in the UK is expected to create 3,000 jobs over the next few years - we could deliver even more job-fuelled growth, but need the Government to get behind us. We understand the need for high levels of security, but if the US can do it, then so can we.”
Hospitality & Tourism Summit
The Hospitality & Tourism Summit is focus on growing the hospitality industry, with the theme of ‘Ready, Set, Go.’ Today’s marks the beginning of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee weekend, less than a month before the London 2012 Olympics.
Keynote speakers at the Summit include Alan Parker, former chief executive of Whitbread and the current chairman of the BHA; John Penrose MP, minister for tourism and heritage; and Richard Solomons, chief executive of hotel group IHG. A large number of other industry leaders will also speak at the event.