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UK urged to offer Chinese tourists better visa options

By Wang Mingjie in London | | Updated: 2017-09-28 00:47

The UK government should make its two-year reduced-cost multi-entry Chinese visa – currently a pilot scheme – into a permanent option, says a British tourism association.

UKinbound, which represents almost 400 of the United Kingdom's tourism businesses, said 85 percent of its members reported bookings from China had increased since the pilot program began.

The scheme, announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond during his visit to Beijing at the beginning of 2016, is due to end in January.

With China's Golden Week holiday set to begin on Sunday, UKinbound seized the moment to lobby government.

Deirdre Wells, UKinbound's chief executive officer, said: "It's encouraging to hear that the government's two-year visa pilot has resulted in increased Chinese visitors for our tour-operator members.It's imperative that this trend continues and that the UK continues to signal to China that we are a welcoming and accessible destination."

She also said the length of the visa should be extended to 10 years.

Home Office figures show the number of visas issued to Chinese people in 2016 increased by 20 percent in comparison to 2015 – to more than 480,000. The government department said Chinese visitors spent more than 513 million pounds ($688 million) in the UK last year.

And when UKinbound asked its members how the UK government could improve the visa system for Chinese visitors, 73 percent said they would like to see multi-entry visas available for longer periods of time, and at the same cost.The two-year pilot visa costs 85 pounds.

Members also suggested improved visa application centers and Chinese-language application forms as much-needed additional improvements.

Brian Bickell, chairman of UK China Visa Alliance, said: "The significant increase in Chinese visitor numbers shows the benefits of government and the private sector working together to create innovative changes to the visa application process."

He would like to see a "one-stop shop" visa application process in which visitors could apply for both UK and Schengen visas,and use shared application forms, shared physical application centers, and be granted visas that last longer.

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