UK Chancellor George Osborne has confirmed the visa process for Chinese tourists to visit the UK will be simplified.
On a trade trip to the country, Osborne announced Chinese nationals will not have to make a separate UK visa application if they secure a Schengen visa and book holidays through selected travel agents.
The current lengthy application process is thought to be deterring Chinese people including the UK in their trip.
A mobile visa scheme already used in Beijing and Shanghai will be expanded in the changes, according to the BBC.
Hotel and travel companies in the UK have welcomed the news, which follows continuous lobbying by tourism and business groups.
“It is great news for both the UK economy and our tourism industry that the government has finally taken steps to streamline the visa application process for Chinese tourists,” said Travelodge’s CEO Grant Hearn. “We can now clearly showcase to the Chinese market that the UK is open for business, and we have a great chance of reaching the $100 billion bilateral trade target by 2015, which was agreed between the UK and Chinese Government last year.”
He urged the government to extend the policy to all Chinese tourists to maximise the amount that can visit.
Ufi Ibrahim, CEO of the British Hospitality Association said: “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. Therefore, news from the Chancellor of the changes in simplifying the visa application process represent an excellent opportunity for Britain to grow tourism receipts and jobs.”
Johan Svanstrom from Hotels.com added: “This is an issue we have been flagging for a long time; China is one of the fastest growing and highest spending markets for international travel, so it’s fantastic to see that the UK is finally opening its arms wide to welcome Chinese visitors. For too long, the UK’s complicated visa application process has deterred visitors from China, to the advantage of France, Italy and other European countries which have seen visitor numbers soar.”