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Simplification of Visa Applications presents excellent opportunities for Britain to grow tourism receipts and jobs says Ufi Ibrahim, CEO of the BHA

News of Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement to simplify visa applications for Chinese tourists will have widespread implications across the tourism and hospitality industry in the UK.  The changes, we believe, will allow the UK to compete internationally and ensure that we can build and strengthen the bond between our two countries at a commercial level.  Closer to home, we envisage excellent opportunities for Britain to grow tourism receipts and jobs.

China’s role as an economic powerhouse and key player in the global market is well-known.  It’s the world’s second biggest economy and the largest exporter of goods.  Experts suggest that China still has the potential to grow dynamically for another two decades.  Indeed, by 2023, it is predicted that China will be the largest outbound tourism economy in the world.

Indeed, as China continues its rapid expansion, Chinese tourists are continually seeking new experiences, often through overseas travel.  According to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), China is the world’s 3rd largest tourism spender and in 2012, spend by Chinese tourists abroad jumped by over 42% to a total of £6.7bn. The EU, including the UK’s competitors France and Germany, welcomed more than 1 million visitors from China last year; that’s a significantly higher number than the UK.

Visiting the UK, has – to this point – been perceived by Chinese tourists as expensive and complicated and it is estimated that the UK’s loss to competitors in 2012 was £1.2bn.  Osborne’s announcement, however, means a far simpler visa application process.  A 24-hour ‘super priority’ visa service will be available from summer 2014, while a mobile visa scheme that already operates in Shanghai and Beijing will be expanded as part of the changes.

The BHA, together with support from the UKCVA, the CBI, Institute of Directors and the British Chamber of Commerce has been proactively lobbying this issue for some time, campaigning for swift visa reform which makes it easier and less expensive for Chinese tourists to visit the UK.  In addition, the BHA has been working directly with the Home Office and the UK Border Agency to identify the issues and their impacts on the UK economy.

Therefore, news from the Chancellor of the changes in simplifying the visa application process means that we, as an industry, now have the opportunity to welcome the Chinese traveller to our shores.  This represents a significant market opportunity for the hospitality and tourism industry on both a European and international scale, generating tourism receipts and jobs in the UK.

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