Britain eases visa regime for Chinese tourists

Updated: 2015-10-22 01:09


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Britain eases visa regime for Chinese tourists

Applicants for visas wait in line at the British visa center in Beijing. [WANG JING/CHINA DAILY]

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 announcement makes it easier for the Chinese to visit and shop here," Michelle Emmerson, CEO of Walpole, 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 is up by 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 the World Travel and Tourism Council.

"When these new visa 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 tremendous boost," Scowsill added.

The UK has adopted various tactics to encourage Chinese tourism, including spending 1.6 million pounds in 2014 on a campaign to give some UK landmarks Chinese names.