The UK could miss out on an increase in visits to Europe by high-spending tourists following the European Commission announcement to simplify the Schengen visa application process.
The Commission said that easier access to the 26 nations which have signed the Schengen agreement for leisure and business travellers from China, India, Russia, Saudia Arabia, South Africa and Ukraine could increase the number of trips by up to 60%, resulting in a £108b boost in spending over five years.
The UK has not signed the Schengen agreement. As a result, visitors from China have to complete a separate visa application form to travel to the UK.
Key elements of the proposed improvements for travelers to Europe include reducing the time it takes to process a visa from 15 to 10 days and a simplified application, including online facilities.
Hilton Worldwide said that it welcomes the visa reform proposals, which will enhance Europe's appeal as a travel destination.
Simon Vincent, president, Europe, Middle East & Africa, Hilton Worldwide, said: "While already the world's number one tourist destination, the Schengen area loses out on millions of potential travellers due to complex and lengthy visa application procedures. The Commission's proposal offers concrete solutions such as online applications and e-visas, that will further enhance Europe's attractiveness as a tourist destination, ensure long term competitiveness and spur economic growth."
The UK, however, will not benefit from these reforms. According to the UK China Visa Alliance, nine out of 10 Chinese visitors to Europe only apply for one visa, with 82% selecting the Schengen visa.