Tourism industry calls for UK visa red tape reduction

25 Oct 2012 | Posted by Carl Thomas

The tourism industry has urged government to take a closer look at UK visa regulations in order to encourage more wealthy visitors to come to Britain.

According to the latest Office for National Statistics data, there was a five per cent decline in the number of overseas tourists coming to Britain in August compared with the same month in 2011. This is despite the fact that this year saw a number of major celebratory events, including the Queen's Jubilee and the London Olympics.

Grant Hearn, chief executive of Travelodge, urged prime minister David Cameron to consider adapting the UK visa regulations in order to encourage more tourists to visit the country.

“A five per cent drop in overseas tourists to the UK during the most momentous year in the history of British tourism is very disappointing news,” he told the Telegraph.

“However, all is not lost, we still have a golden opportunity within our grasp, as long as the government takes action and does what it pledged to do – which is to use this extraordinary year to turbocharge our tourism industry.”

Meanwhile, Nick Varney, owner of theme park Alton Towers, warned that the government is at risk of wasting the interest it garnered during the Olympics and the Jubilee if it doesn't get its immigration affairs in order.

“The Olympics has done a great job for this country’s image,” he remarked. “There are lots of people who want to come here but the visa regulations are onerous and costly.”

Migrants and visitors from China are coming under particularly close scrutiny due to the country's up and coming middle classes and their spare cash. At the moment, however, Britain's decision not to join the Schengen visa system is seriously affecting its influence with the Chinese. In fact, France currently receives eight times more Chinese tourists than Britain, thanks to its membership of the 20-country visa agreement.

Changes will need to be made to make entrance to the UK simpler if Britain wants to compete with other EU countries.