The UK Chinese Visa Alliance (UKCVA) represents British businesses, including the retail and tourism industries. The UKCVA has been looking at practical ways of achieving significant improvements in Chinese visitor numbers to the UK, in a way that retains the robustness of the UK visa system.
With China being one of the UK’s priority markets, the Alliance recognises that the economic wellbeing of London and, as a consequence, the UK could be hugely bolstered by increasing the number of legitimate Chinese visitors to the UK.
Nee Hao Magazine asks Catherine Shrimpton, Co-founder member of UK China Visa Alliance, Head of Marketing London First for her thoughts on the Chancellor’s recent announcements on reducing the visa barriers for Chinese tourists, students and business people when visiting the UK.
What are your initial thoughts about the changes?
The UKCVA warmly welcomes this significant step forward. The Chancellor’s announcement of a pilot, allowing trusted tour operators to apply for a UK visa by submitting an EU Schengen form, will reduce the barriers which need to be overcome by tour groups who wish to include the UK on their itinerates. British businesses have welcomed the move, especially those in the leisure and retail sectors. The UKCVA hopes this announcement will pave the way for future improvements that will streamline and simplify the two applications even further so that, in effect, we provide a shared front end service to Chinese visitors, without compromising border security.
Who do you expect to benefit most from the changes?
We believe this new streamlined visa process for tour operators will result in a major uplift in the number of Chinese visitors coming to the UK, therefore benefitting Britain’s economy.
As the Chinese are the world’s highest-spending travellers, this is good news for the UK’s retail sector in particular. To put this in context, figures from the world’s leading retail tourism expert, Global Blue, show that Chinese travellers spend on average £1,656 per transaction in the London Luxury Quarter, which is made up of the central London areas of Mayfair, Piccadilly & St James’s. Chinese visitors to London spend £262 million a year in the London Luxury Quarter alone. Even so, the UKCVA estimates that the UK economy has been losing out on more than a billion pounds sterling a year in retail sales, with Chinese tourists choosing to visit other European destinations due to a lack of visa simplicity.
Will these changes help drive Chinese trade to the UK from other European destinations?
As a global shopping destination UK brands are tailoring their offerings for Chinese visitors to London and the UK. We [the UKCVA] believe that a streamlined and simplified process for applying for both a UK and an EU Schengen visa will help to ensure more Chinese visitors can make the most of everything the UK has to offer.
Besides retail, we also believe these changes will bring benefits in many other sectors. Today’s tourists are often tomorrow’s business visitors and potential investors.
Any other comments?
This is a further addition to the many improvements already made by the UK Government. The UK China Visa Alliance has been greatly encouraged by the more customer-focused approach taken by UK Visas & Immigration since it was spun out of the UK Border Agency earlier this year. In the longer term, we would like to see the improvements announced by the Chancellor extended to independent travellers, which is a growing segment of the Chinese traveller market, and the sharing of visa application centres with our international counterparts. Nonetheless, this is a very welcome step which we hope signals clearly that the UK welcomes China.