Under the new initiative announced by Osborne today, the government will refund the cost of up to 25,000 visas issued to Chinese visitors who book a UK tour through a registered tour operators.
Although the full details of the scheme are yet to be finalised, BigHospitality understands that a certain proportion of the visa refunds will be allocated to tours with a minimum number of nights outside of London.
Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said: “This initiative will encourage more Chinese people to come and enjoy the best of Britain – from our rich heritage and spectacular scenery to our world class museums and vibrant cities.
“It underlines our commitment to strengthen links with China and that we are ready to welcome the growing number of Chinese people that are choosing to holiday in the UK.”
VisitBritain said the scheme will generate between £8m and £15m in additional tourism spend, supporting 150 to 300 new jobs in the industry.
“This is a most welcome scheme and acts as the perfect catalyst to enable Chinese tourists to not only visit Britain, but travel right across the country,” said Patricia Yates, VisitBritain director of Strategy and Communications.
“Working together with tour operators, VisitBritain will ensure our messaging remains welcoming and that we continue to deliver jobs and growth for Britain’s fifth largest export – tourism.”
The tourism agency said it was also planning a £1.6m joint-funded marketing campaign in China, with further details due to be released in November.
The news of the initiative comes as Home secretary Theresa May is expected to announce a further relaxation of Britain’s rules on Chinese visas.
According to the Telegraph, May will use a speech in London today to reveal plans to allow visitors from China to use the European Schengen visa when changing planes at UK airports, instead of having to apply for a UK visa.
The government’s latest moves on Chinese visas follow its decision in June to streamline the Chinese visa application process by allowing Chinese tourists to use the same form for both European Schengen visas and UK visas.
Westminster is also funding the GREAT China Welcome campaign, which was launched by VisitBritain last December last year and aims to secure 650,000 Chinese visits a year by 2020.
Read some top tips for attracting Chinese visitors to your hotel here.