Chinese visa overhaul could boost visitor numbers by 265k

By Liam Garrahan contact

- Last updated on GMT

Image credit: Thinkstock/banarfilardhi
Image credit: Thinkstock/banarfilardhi

Related tags: Chinese tourists, England, European union

An overhaul of the Chinese visa system could boost the boost the number of Chinese tourists to the UK by 265k each year and earn the British economy £337m, according to The UK China Visa Alliance (UKCVA).

Amidst news that the UK is expecting an influx of Chinese tourists during October​, the UKCVA is proposing that the current six-month system should be replaced by a 10-year tourist visa following a similar move to boost figures in the USA. The group says that the proposal would also see the cost of Chinese visas to the tax payer cut.

In the first two-months after its introduction in the USA, the system increased the number of visas issued to Chinese tourists by 68 per cent. A year-on-year increase was also recorded in December 2014 and January 2015 with visitor figures increasing from 209k to over 350k during this period.

New West End Company, a group which represents West End retailers and is a founding member of the UKCVA, backs the initiative, with chief executive Richard Dickinson saying that the new plans would make Britain more competitive in the Chinese tourism market.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

A report by tourism shopping tax refund company Global Blue said that Chinese tourists currently spend almost £1,200 per visit to London, second only to Qataris who spend over £1350 per visit to the capital.

Gordon Clark, head of commercial UK and Ireland at Global Blue, said that the UK needs to encourage Chinese tourists to shop in the UK and that a 10-year visa will help Britain compete with the European market.

“We need to look at ways of encouraging these luxuriate shoppers to come to the UK to do their shopping and start to compete with our European neighbours,” he said.

“By offering an improved more affordable 10 year Chinese visa will help encourage more Chinese visitors to the UK and saving the Government £19.5m in visa administrations costs.”

The British Hospitality Association (BHA) has been lobbying to see changes introduced to the Chinese visa system.

Following news in June that the Government would be streamlining the visa process in China by allowing tourists to apply for a UK visa and the European Schengen visa at the same time, chief executive Ufi Ibrahim welcomed the move​.

“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 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.”

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