The pilot scheme, which starts on 1 July, means visitors from China will be able to obtain a visa for both the UK and the Schengen area of 26 European countries by visiting application centres in Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai. Currently the UK is not part of the Schengen area.
The BHA has welcomed the move and has been campaigning vigorously for the UK to make the process easier. The trade association also claims the UK loses out on an estimated £1.2 billion per annum because it attracts fewer Chinese tourists than other major 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.”
She added that the timing of such a policy was important as recent data from the Office of National Statistics showed a 17 per cent drop in 2014 of Chinese business travellers compared to 2013.
Home Secretary Theresa May said: “The number of Chinese visitors coming to the UK continues to soar.
“We already offer an excellent visa service in China and have made a number of changes to create a quicker and easier process for customers.
“This scheme will create a one-stop shop for Chinese visitors to the UK and Europe, whether they are coming here for business or leisure.”
In December 2013 the Government launched a new initiative called ‘China Welcome’ with VisitBritain to promote the UK a more welcoming destination for Chinese tourists.
A survey by Euromonitor earlier this year predicted that China would overtake Germany as the number one source of outbound travel to Europe in 2017.