BHA welcomes home office pledge to improve visa service for Chinese tourists
The British Hospitality Association (BHA) has welcomed the news that home secretary Theresa May is seeking to introduce a joint visa application for Chinese tourists who to travel to the UK and up to 26 European countries covered by the Schengen agreement.
Last year, the European Union welcomed more than 1m visitors from China, compared to the UK's 149,000, with an estimated loss to competitors of £1.2b in potential business.
Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association said with China set to be the largest outbound tourism economy in the world by 2023, the opportunity for Britain to grow tourism receipts and jobs should not be missed.
"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."
Ibrahim said she is encouraged by Theresa May's announcement and also notes 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 five 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."
At the BHA's annual summit in June 2013, Ning Ning Yu, president of China International Travel Services, said that Chinese visitor numbers to the UK could be boosted by reforming the tourist visa application process, delivering an efficient tax refund process at all UK airports, and providing a warm welcome with Chinese language signage at London airports.
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