The British Hospitality Association welcomes George Osborne’s announcement that Visa applications for Chinese visitors entering the UK will be simplified, and believes this will have a significant impact on growing tourism and jobs in the UK.
The BHA, together with support from the UKCVA, the CBI, Institute of Directors and the British Chamber of Commerce has been proactively lobbying this issue, campaigning for swift visa reform. In addition, the BHA has been working directly with the Home Office and the UK Border Agency to identify the issues and how they impact the UK economy.
Ufi Ibrahim, Chief Executive of the British Hospitality Association said: “George Osborne’s announcement is welcomed by the UK hospitality and tourism industry. 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.
“Simplifying the Visa application system, we believe, will allow us to compete internationally and ensure that we can build and strengthen the bond between our two countries at a commercial level.
“However, this is just a first step and we will continue to campaign on this issue until the visa reform is fully achieved and we can welcome many more Chinese as well as Russian and Indian visitors to the UK.”
Simon Vincent, President Europe, Middle East and Africa, Hilton Worldwide, said, "We have been actively engaging with governments and industry around the world, to campaign for faster, more efficient visa services. We greatly welcome the measures outlined by the Chancellor today, knowing from our own experience in the US that changes to the visa system can have a huge impact on visitor numbers within a short timeframe, bringing immediate economic gain. It is now vital that these UK reforms are rolled out quickly and effectively and that improvements are continuous - supporting the drive to welcome Chinese visitors to the UK."
Richard Solomons, Chief Executive, IHG, said: “We welcome this announcement in an area which we have urged Government to take action. This positive move recognises the significant benefits of the growth in outbound travel from China for the UK economy.
“IHG is a British company with over 4,600 hotels in nearly 100 countries. We have strong links with China and have had a presence there since 1984 when we opened our first Holiday Inn Hotel.
"This announcement is a boost to the efforts of the tourist sector to welcome more current and future Chinese guests to the UK."
Nick Varney, CEO of Merlin Entertainments said: “We welcome the fact that the Government has listened to the industry. This long overdue move could be an important step in improving the UK’s international tourism ‘edge’ rather than continuing to lose out to our more ‘tourism friendly’ international rivals. The Government can and should do more to stimulate tourism to make the UK a more attractive destination, especially in addressing the current very high rate of VAT in what is a price sensitive export sector.”
Grant Hearn, CEO Travelodge said: “It’s great news for the UK economy and our tourism industry that the Government has finally taken the step to streamline the visa application process for a wider group of Chinese tourists. Now we can clearly showcase to the Chinese market that the UK is open for business and we now have a good chance of reaching the $100 billion bilateral trade target by 2015, which was set between the UK and Chinese Government last year.
“Today’s announcement will also certainly create a catalyst in our job’s market which is a much needed boost to help get the economy back on track. However to really unleash the true potential of this growing tourist market, the Government needs to extend its policy across all Chinese tourists and not the selected few.
According to the UNWTO, China is the world's 3rd largest tourism spender. In 2012, spend by Chinese tourists abroad jumped by over 42% to a total of £65bn. The EU, including the UK's competitors France and Germany, welcomed more than 1 million visitors from China last year, compared to the UK's 215,000. The UK's estimated loss to competitors was £1.2bn of Chinese tourism receipts.