Bri­tain eases its visa regime for Chi­nese tourists

China Daily (Canada) - - XI’S VISIT - By KARENKWOK and ZHANG CHUNYAN in Lon­don

Bri­tain’s travel and re­tail in­dus­tries wel­comed new mea­sures that sig­nif­i­cantly re­lax visa rules for Chi­nese tourists.

Chi­nese vis­i­tors are cur­rently is­sued a six-month tourist visa that costs 85 pounds ($131). Un­der the new rules, which start in Jan­uary, the visa will pro­vide mul­ti­ple en­tries to the UK over two years with­out the need for ex­tra pa­per­work or ex­pen­di­ture.

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron an­nounced the new pol­icy on Wed­nes­day dur­ing the state visit of Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping.

Cameron also an­nounced his in­ten­tion to go fur­ther with plans for a new 10-year multi-en­try visa for Chi­nese tourists at no ex­tra cost.

Changes also in­clude ex­pand­ing the UK’s mobile fin­ger­print­ing ser­vice to 50 Chi­nese ci­ties from the present nine. The two gov­ern­ments are ne­go­ti­at­ing an in­crease in the num­ber of visa ap­pli­ca­tion cen­ters.

“China is be­com­ing one of our fastest-grow­ing tourism mar­kets, so mak­ing it eas­ier and more con­ve­nient for Chi­nese vis­i­tors to come to the UK is ex­tremely im­por­tant,” Cameron said.

Cameron said that it is great news for the tourism industry and great news for the Bri­tish econ­omy to max­i­mize Chi­nese spend­ing power.

The new pol­icy was wel­comed by Bri­tain’s tourism and re­tail in­dus­tries.

“The Chi­nese re­ally ad­mire the qual­ity, cre­ativ­ity and crafts­man­ship of Bri­tish lux­ury goods. To­day’s an­nounce­ment­makes it eas­ier for the Chi­nese to visit and shop here,” Michelle Em­mer­son, CEO ofWalpole, a Lon­don-based al­liance of Bri­tish lux­ury brands, told China Daily.

Bri­tain’s 32-bil­lion-pound lux­ury industry is par­tic­u­larly de­pen­dent on Chi­nese shop­pers, the world’s largest lux­ury con­sumer group.

Chi­nese na­tion­als buy about three-quar­ters of their lux­ury goods out­side of the Chi­nese main­land, ac­cord­ing to Ex­ane BNP Paribas.

Chi­nese tourists cur­rently con­trib­ute 500 mil­lion pounds an­nu­ally to the UK econ­omy, ac­cord­ing to Vis­itBri­tain, a gov­ern­ment-funded agency.

The num­ber of Chi­nese vis­it­ing Bri­tain has tripled in five years, and their spend­ing isupby the same pro­por­tion. Chi­nese vis­i­tors spend an av­er­age of 2,688 pounds per visit, four times as much as other vis­i­tors.

But Bri­tain wants to at­tract even more Chi­nese. Of 117 mil­lion Chi­nese who trav­eled abroad in 2014, only 185,000 went to Bri­tain, ac­cord­ing to the­World Travel and Tourism Coun­cil.

“When th­ese newvisa poli­cies take ef­fect, it will have a sig­nif­i­cant pos­i­tive im­pact on the num­ber of Chi­nese vis­i­tors com­ing to the UK,” said David Scowsill, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Lon­don-based in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“With the Chi­nese be­ing the top spend­ing tourists in the world, the UK’s econ­omy, re­tail and hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­tries will re­ceive a boost,” Scowsill added.

Con­tact the writ­ers at zhangchun­yan@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

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