The British Hospitality Association (BHA) has shown support for George Osborne’s recent announcement that visa applications for Chinese visitors entering the UK will be simplified. Chinese applicants will now be able to submit one form to cover them for entry into both Britain and EU Schengen Agreement countries through selected travel agents.
The BHA has collaborated with the UKCVA (UK Chinese Visa Alliance), the CBI (Confederation of British Industry), Institute of Directors and the British Chamber of Commerce to proactively campaign for swift visa reform. In addition, the BHA has worked directly with the Home Office and the UK Border Agency to identify the issues and how they impact the UK economy.
Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive at the BHA says: “George Osborne’s announcement is welcomed by the UK hospitality and tourism industry. By 2023, China will be the largest outbound tourism economy in the world, so it is important that the UK makes every effort to welcome the Chinese traveller into our country.
“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.
“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.”
The campaign has attracted support from a variety of other high-profile industry professionals, including Simon Vincent, president Europe, Middle East and Africa at Hilton Worldwide. He says: “We have been actively engaging with governments and industry around the world to campaign for faster, more efficient visa services. We greatly welcome the measures outlined by the Chancellor today, knowing from our own experience in the US that changes to the visa system can have a huge impact on visitor numbers within a short timeframe, bringing immediate economic gain.
“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.”
Richard Solomons, chief executive at IHG, says: “We welcome this announcement in an area which we have urged Government to take action. This positive move recognises the significant benefits of the growth in outbound travel from China for the UK economy.”
Grant Hearn, CEO at Travelodge adds: “It’s great news for the UK economy and our tourism industry that the Government has finally taken the step to streamline the visa application process for a wider group of Chinese tourists. Now we can clearly showcase to the Chinese market that the UK is open for business and we now have a good chance of reaching the $100b bilateral trade target by 2015, which was set between the UK and Chinese Government last year.”
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, China is the world’s third largest tourism spender. In 2012, spend by Chinese tourists abroad increased by over 42% to a total of £6.7b. The EU welcomed more than a million visitors from China last year, compared to the UK’s 215,000. The UK’s estimated loss to competitors was £1.2b of Chinese tourism receipts.