21 September 2012

Airlines persuading Government to loosen UK visa rules for Chinese tourists

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International Airlines Group chief executive Willie Walsh has claimed headway is being made with the Government to loosen UK visa restrictions which will allow more Chinese tourists to visit Britain.

UK visa

London businesses are hoping UK visa regulations can be relaxed to allow more Chinese tourists to visit.

Affluent Chinese tourists looking to venture abroad for the first time have consistently been shown to spend more on holiday than any other nationality. However, stringent UK visa rules for Chinese passport holders have meant substantially more Chinese tourists choose to visit Europe than the UK.

Approximately 150,000 Chinese tourists visited the UK last year, compared to over one million who visited France. Non-EU nationals can visit 26 European countries on a single, easily obtained Schengen visa but are required to complete an overly-complex, English language application for a UK visa.

In an effort to combat this disappointing trend, IAG along with several other London businesses have been lobbying the Government to relax visa policy and capitalise on the appeal of the London Olympics to bring in more tourism revenue.

"There is a much greater awareness in Government of this significant impediment to Chinese investment and tourism in the UK," said Mr Walsh.

The Government is investing £8 million in tourism marketing in order to lure more people to the country in the wake of the successful Olympic Games but Mr Walsh says no amount of marketing will counteract visa requirements he claims are unnecessary.

"There is still concern in some areas but in many cases we are talking about very wealthy, important Chinese people who want to invest in the UK. They are not the sort of people where we need to worry about them coming to London and then staying."

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