At 8.59pm today the FT reported that Theresa May, home secretary, has bowed to pressure to streamline the process for Chinese tourists to Britain. As we are not part of the EU Schengen visa system this results in many high spending Chinese visitors bypassing our country. With their spend of $102bn on global travel in 2012 competition in Europe to attract Chinese shoppers is fierce.
David Cameron, the prime minister, and George Osborne, chancellor, have a visit to Beijing planned for this autumn and are concerned about Britain’s openness to Chinese visitors ahead of this trip. Vince Cable recently stated that these visitors and businessmen are fed up with the hassle and humiliation of trying to come here that they are opting to go to France and Germany instead. Even Willie Walsh, chief executive of IAG, which owns British Airways and Iberia, piled on the pressure saying ” There is a perception in China that the UK does not want to see Chineses tourists and businesses.” There is pressure too from retailers and businesses to make these upwardly mobile Asian travellers welcome as they typically spend £1,676 per visit to the UK which is nearly three times the global average. They think that the cumbersome visa bureaucracy is at the root of the problem.
Theresa May states that the Home Office is looking at the visa application process and that of the Schengen country visas in China to see what possibilities there are for streamlining. However, she was clear that this should not be mistaken for closer integration into the Schengen system.
VIP business applicants have seen improvments with a 40% increase in applications between April and June 2013. Mobile teams now collect their biometric data from them at their offices.
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