Photo via The Irish Times
A letter to Amber Rudd, the home secretary was written by Willie Walsh saying that it needs to be easier for visitors from China to visit the United Kingdom, warning that Britain will miss out on the economic boost that is brought in from affluent tourists and Chinese investment.
The boss of IAG, the parent firm of British Airways, has requested the government of the United Kingdom to introduce a new 10-year visa for Chinese visitors, saying that a pledge to do so was already made over two years ago. However, there has not yet been any progress.
In the letter, Walsh says: “We need a step change on China. We make it hard for Chinese tourists to visit. The USA charges £119 for a 10-year visa while Britain charges £767.
“Making it easier for Chinese businesses and tourists to come to the UK is critical to boosting our economy and enhancing global trading links, especially post-Brexit. We continue to lose out on the new jobs that Chinese investment and affluent tourists bring.”
The United Kingdom issued around 480,000 visas to Chinese tourists in 2016, while Germany, France, Spain, and Italy collectively issued 1.5m visas. Walsh said that the Schengen visa costs €99 and offers free access to 26 different countries which puts the Unted Kingdom at a further competitive disadvantage.
The United Kingdom has examined to improve links with China as it attempts to improve ties ahead of Brexit, announcing last December that a new agreement has been signed in order to boost the number of flights that are allowed between both countries by 50 percent.
At that time, the government said that the number of tourists from China that are visiting the United Kingdom had increased during the first half of last year, with around 115,000 visits made, an increase of 47 percent during the same period in 2016. Spending also increased to £231 which is a rise of 54 percent.
Today, a spokesperson from the Home Office said: “The UK remains a place that welcomes talented and genuine migrants to work, study and visit, which serves the national interest.
“This world class welcome starts with the UK visa service, which issues more visas in China than any other country. We have made a number of changes in recent years to create a quicker, easier and even more convenient process for our Chinese customers, including our ongoing two year visa pilot introduced in 2016.
“Demand is growing – up to 20 per cent in the past year – and we anticipate a record number of applications in 2018. We are committed to delivering a world class service in response.”