Last week, at the first UK-China Bilateral Investment Conference, Chancellor George Osborne announced plans to refund the cost of up to 25,000 visas for Chinese tourists in an attempt to attract more visits to the UK. The conference was attended by one of the architects of China’s economic programme, Vice Premier Ma Kai. Osborne said that the conference was a way to announce ‘one of the most intense and substantive set of economic and financial measures ever to be agreed between our two countries’.
George Osborne: The more Chinese Tourists the Merrier
Osborne has said that the economic plan was not just about bringing economic stability to the UK, but it is a way to ensure that Britain is better connected to the fastest merging economies in the world.
One of a series measure announced at the conference was for Chinese tourists visiting the UK in organised tour group. The UK Government plan to exempt approved Chinese tour groups for requiring transit visas:
“The more Chinese tourists the merrier. I think that will strengthen British aviation, strengthen British airports as hubs for direct routes to China, so that people use British airports as a jumping off point for trips around Europe. Of course one of the really exciting things we see all around is more and more Chinese tourists coming to the United Kingdom and they are very, very welcome.”
There are also plans to increase frequent flights between China and Britain. A reported £1.6m will be spent on marketing.
UKCVA: 1.3 million Chinese Tourists Visit Europe each Year
In light of the conference which took place on 12 September 2014, the Home Office are expected to make an announcement in regards to allowing visas to the UK to be made as easy as to the 26 Schengen countries of the EU.
Home Secretary Theresa May said on Friday:
“We are taking steps to further align the process of applying for a UK visa with the Schengen visa process in China through the development of a “Single Visa Application Centre visit” concept. This would enable customers who visit a UK application centre to submit both UK and Schengen visa applications at the same time. Customers will then receive their decisions back by courier avoiding the need to return to the application centre.”
Organisation UK China Visa Alliance (UKCVA) produced a report earlier this year which found that last year 1.4 million Schengen visas were approved compared to 292,000 UK visas:
“What is clear is that over 1.3 million Chinese people travel half way around the world to visit Europe each year but, because they do not have a UK visa, they do not then make the short trip across the Channel to visit Britain. This is a lost opportunity to the UK and its economy. British companies would like the opportunity to compete for a portion of the spending money of these 1.3 million Chinese people in addition to that of our 291,000 existing Chinese visitors.”
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