UK Desperately Wants High-Spending Chinese Tourists
High-spending Chinese tourists have become an increasingly welcome sight on Europe?s streets, as the continent struggles through its deepest recession in more than half a century.
Every country wants to capitalize on this growing group of travelers, including the United Kingdom, which has arranged a tourism mission to China and is looking at changes to its visa system to make entry easier for Chinese tourists.
A proposal to allow dual processing of British and Schengen visas was presented to the UK Border Agency. The Schengen area includes 26 European countries that are signed up to a dual visa agreement. A single Schengen visa covers parts of Eastern Europe and most of Western Europe, including France and Germany. Britain has so far refused to join the Schengen system due to national security concerns.
Under the terms of the proposal, Chinese applicants will be able to submit just one application and set of documents to obtain both a Schengen and UK visa.
Walpole, a consortium of luxury brands, and the New West End Company, which represents top London stores, met the border agency recently to discuss the issue.
?The new visa plan is very necessary. The applications will still be processed twice, ensuring that the UK border regime remains strong, but two visas will be issued at the same time,? Julia Carrick, chief executive of Walpole British Luxury, says.
Tourism and retail bosses estimate that the UK misses out on 1.2 billion pounds ($1.9 billion; 1.4 billion euros) from wealthy Chinese visitors a year as a result of its rigid system.
?France currently attracts eight times more Chinese visitors than the UK. Harmonizing the visa system should lead to the UK performing as well as France,? Carrick says.
Research from VisitBritain, the UK?s national tourist body, indicates that 61 percent of Chinese people who chose not to visit Britain were put off by the country?s difficult visa process.
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