UK visa requirements 'dampening tourism income'

18 Dec 2013 | Posted by Carl Thomas

Tougher UK visa requirements are putting the dampeners on Britain's tourism industry, especially in London and particularly where Russians are concerned.

This is the view expressed by Harrods managing director Michael Ward, who has spoken out in his role on the board of industry body, Walpole British Luxury.

Mr Ward urged for the UK to follow the same path as the 26 countries in the Schengen group, instead of opting out and putting up an extra barrier to tourists coming to Europe.

He said: "It’s very simple. Can we go back to doing exactly what Schengen do. If it’s good enough for France, Germany and Italy why do we think that it’s not good enough for us? If you’ve got a barrier you will go elsewhere. People are exceptionally mobile."

Meanwhile, Simon Thomas, owner of Leicester Square's Hippodrome Casino, told the Evening Standard that the British government needs to "wake up and smell the Rouble", referencing the power of the Russian currency and the wealth behind it.

"You have to ask why there are thousands of businesses trying to open doors for international trade while a handful of Whitehall locksmiths are busy bolting them shut," he added. Mr Thomas urged the government take "decisive action" and "shine a light on our bewilderingly complex visa rules and regulations".

The comments come as research from the UN's World Tourism Organisation has shown that Russian travellers are increasing their expenditure at a rate that is faster than any other major country. They have even overtaken the Chinese, increasing their spending by 29 per cent over the first nine months of the year.