Personal Immigration

UK visa could be a ‘deal-breaker’ for Chinese

The UK’s complex visa application system could be deterring thousands of Chinese visitors, according to the second annual Hotels.com Chinese International Travel Monitor (CITM). In a study of 3,000 Chinese residents, 19% said that the ease of applying for a visa is the top priority when planning a trip abroad.

The finding raises concerns that the UK could lose out to France and other parts of Europe that have signed the Schengen agreement. A separate visa is required to enter the UK whereas a single visa gives Chinese visitors entry to all 26 counties in the Schengen area.

To better compete with Schengen area countries, the Home Office announced plans in May to explore how the UK’s visa system could be made easier for visitors travelling in groups. While the move is a step in the right direction, a focus on group travel could mean that the UK may miss out on the growing number of independent Chinese travellers.

As the world’s biggest spender on travel abroad, the Chinese are becoming a top target worldwide, with many countries launching campaigns to attract more visitors from China. By 2015, 100 million Chinese citizens are predicted to travel abroad each year.

“The UK cannot afford to be turning visitors away,” said Nigel Pocklington at the Hotels.com brand. “In an increasingly competitive market, we should be doing all that we can to encourage more visitors from China to spend their holidays in the UK. The government’s plan to streamline visa applications for group travellers is very welcome news, but we must not forget about the increasing numbers who prefer to travel independently.

“With approximately a fifth of travellers citing ease of visa application as a key consideration, the UK’s current system could be a ‘deal-breaker’ for some visitors if changes are not made. Aside from benefiting the UK’s tourism industry, relaxing restrictions on visas could provide a big boost for retailers and the wider economy,” he added.

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