Chinese citizens to have easier time getting UK visas
By Kelly Olsen, AFPBEIJING--Britain says it will make it easier for China's citizens to obtain visas, as it seeks a bigger slice of the multi-billion-dollar Chinese traveler cake.
October 15, 2013, 12:08 am TWN
Finance Minister George Osborne, who is in China leading a British trade delegation, promised the new measures would help the tens of thousands of Chinese visitors hoping to visit Britain.
“Have announced new measures to simplify + speed up visa applications for visitors from #China,” the chancellor of the exchequer wrote on his official Twitter account.
“Good for tourism and British business,” Osborne said.
Under the proposals, Chinese tourists visiting the European Union using selected travel agencies will no longer have to file a separate application to visit Britain, which is not part of the EU's “Schengen Area” for border-free travel.
Business people will also be able to apply for a “super-priority” visa, which will be processed within 24 hours rather than a week.
Osborne also said the government was looking at a nationwide rollout of its “mobile visa service,” which is currently being piloted in Beijing and Shanghai.
The service — aimed at business executives — enables visa teams to go to applicants' workplaces to collect their forms and biometric data.
Some 210,000 visas were issued to Chinese nationals in 2012, adding around 300 million pounds (US$480 million) to the British economy.
But analysts say Britain has missed out on benefiting from Chinese tourists' spending power, partly because of its visa rules.
According to the U.N.'s World Tourism Organization, China has become the world's most valuable source of tourists, with expenditure on travel abroad reaching US$102 billion in 2012.
But France attracted 1.4 million tourist trips from China last year, around six times as many as Britain, Franziska Brandenburger of research firm Euromonitor International wrote in a recent note.
Among western European countries, Britain was also behind Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Spain, the company said, leaving it in sixth place.
“Currently the majority of Chinese tourists opt for other European destinations as a consequence of the visa application process,” wrote Brandenburger.
“Failure to attract Chinese visitors threatens job creation and inhibits tourism receipts, particularly seeing as Europe has laid out the red carpet to Chinese consumers.”
During his visit, Osborne is trying to win over a Chinese government that has rebuffed Britain due to a meeting last year between Prime Minister David Cameron and the Dalai Lama.