UK visa issues 'threaten Olympic legacy'

02 Feb 2011 | Posted by Carl Thomas

UK visa issues could prove problematic in the run up to the Olympic Games.

This is according to Ufi Ibrahim, the chief executive of the British Hospitality Association.

Speaking to industry leaders at an Olympic conference, Ms Ibrahim explained that high UK visa costs and difficulties in completing UK visa forms are proving to be a deterrent for people from countries outside of the European Economic Area.

She explained: "At the moment, while China, India and Russia are growing in importance as being tourism source markets for the UK, only three per cent of international visitors coming to the UK are actually from those three countries.

"We have not done a good job so far in attracting those visitors."

In addition to UK visa issues, high VAT, air passenger duties, the need for better hospitality training and cuts to promotion and marketing budgets are also proving to be risks to the success of the Games.

Indeed, the VAT levels in the UK are higher than a number of European countries, which "puts the UK at a severe competitive disadvantage" when it comes to attracting people to the Games.

Last year, the government launched a UK visa specifically to help athletes, coaches and officials who want to take part in test events at the Olympic or Paralympic Games in 2012.

Those entering the county will be able to undertake activities permissible under this specific UK visa category that are directly linked to the Games. However, the longest that an individual may remain in the country for any one time is six months and the new visa will cost the same as the six-month visit visa with applicants receiving a multiple entry visa valid from date of issue until November 8th 2012.

People who have taken advantage of the UK visa for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in its earliest stages could be holding onto a visa that is valid for almost two years.