Operators welcome simplification of visas for Chinese tourists
Hoteliers have welcomed the simplification of visa applications for Chinese visitors and urged the Government to continue reforms that would make it easier for all overseas guests to visit Britain.
British Hospitality Association chief executive Ufi Ibrahim said it was important for the economy that the UK made every effort to welcome Chinese travelers.
"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," she said.
"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, that the announcement by Chancellor George Osborne could have a dramatic impact on visitor numbers.
He said: "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."
According to the World Tourism Organisation, China is the world's 3rd largest tourism spender. In 2012, spend by Chinese tourists abroad jumped by over 42% to a total of £6.7b.
Travelodge chief executive Grant Heard said this week's announcement gave the UK a greater chance of attracting some of that spend, though warned that more could yet be done.
He added: "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."
The move was "long overdue" according to Merlin Entertainment chief executive Nick Varney, who said the government must also address the high rate of VAT.
"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," he said. "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."
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