BHA Welcomes Home Office Pledge to Improve Visa Service for Chinese Tourists

Facilitating access The British Hospitality Association welcomes the news that home secretary, Theresa May is seeking to bring in a joint visa application for the UK which will benefit Chinese tourists, making the process of visiting the UK less expensive and more straightforward. 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 their impacts on the UK economy. 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 £6.7bn. 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. All the evidence points to UK visa policy and visa processing as the single largest barrier to growing the UK's market share of tourism from China. Indeed, visiting the UK from China costs considerably more than visiting France, Spain and Italy; it also takes more time, involves an extra visit to a visa agent, a longer form and the collection of biometric data. At the BHA’s annual Summit in June 2013, Ning Ning Yu, President of China International Travel Services, commented on this issue and made the point that in 2012 only 149,000 Chinese visitors came to the UK.  Five times more visited Australia, which has a longer flight time. She proposed three ways to boost Chinese visitor numbers to the UK:

  • Reform the tourist visa application process
  • Deliver an efficient tax refund process at all UK airports
  • Provide a warm welcome with Chinese language signage at London airports

Ning Ning Yu believes that until the UK Government improves the access to UK for Chinese tourists there is limited opportunity to bring groups here. Ufi Ibrahim, Chief Executive of the British Hospitality Association said: “By 2023, China will be the largest outbound tourism economy in the world. Therefore, the opportunity for Britain to grow tourism receipts and jobs is unmissable. However, steps need to be taken now to ensure that we demonstrate a welcome to the Chinese traveller in time to compete for this significant market opportunity on an international scale. Our competitors France and Germany, are also not going to stand still. They have already demonstrated their keenness to succeed the UK in the bid to grow Tourism exports and jobs. So, the BHA, together with the UKCVA and its growing number of partners, is encouraged by Theresa May’s announcement. We also note that the UK Visa’s and Immigration Service is making improvements to ensure that some 96% of all Chinese visas are approved and that there is now a seven day and 5 day premium turnaround service from application to issue. However, we will continue to campaign on this issue until further changes are made to enable Chinese as well as Russian and Indian visitor numbers to start increasing in line with other European countries.”

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