Home secretary Theresa May has announced that she is pledging to launch a joint visa system that will attract more Chinese tourists to the UK.
If successful, Chinese residents will be able to apply for a tourist visa using the same application form which is used by the 'Schengen' group of EU nations such as Spain, France and Germany. While tourists from China can visit any of these nations on one visa, they must apply separately for the UK and Ireland.
The British Hospitality Association (BHA), which has been lobbying for the change for years, celebrated the announcement. Chief executive Ufi Ibrahim 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."
According to figures by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, China is the third largest tourism spender in the world, with its tourists having splashed out £6.7 billion in 2012. The EU saw over a million Chinese visitors last year, compared to just 215,000 in the UK, meaning that the country lost around £1.2 billion to competitor nations.
Ning Ning Yu, president of China International Travel Services, said at the BHA Summit in June that five times more people had gone to visit Australia than the UK, even though there is a longer flight time. She also suggested that incorporating more Chinese signage and delivering a tax refund process at UK airports would also encourage more visitors.
Ms Ibrahim added that the BHA will continue to campaign for other countries to have a similarly simple visa application process in order to increase tourist numbers from nations such as Russia and India.
Berkeley Scott is a specialist recruitment agency providing hospitality employment solutions.