The UK visa system is deterring many Chinese businesspeople and customers from spending money on and in the UK, which in turn is having a costly impact on British businesses, new comments suggest.
According to Yu Ning Ning, president of China International Travel Service (CITS), one of China's most established and powerful tour operators, the UK visa system is putting travellers and agencies off coming to Britain.
Speaking in London as part of a conference organised by the British Hospitality Association, Ms Yu said Chinese tourists want to visit at least two countries in Europe and tend to opt for the single Schengen visa in order to so. This dramatically reduces the number of big groups that make it to the UK since Britain has opted out of the Schengen agreement.
She said: “If I want to send 1,000 people [to the UK] I have to send buses [to a visa processing centre]. This is really causing problems. Every minute you are losing business.”
She added that the government's attempts to improve the situation in recent months have done little to help the situation. Major tour companies such as CITS are still not keen on sending people to the UK due to the visa problems incumbent in doing so.
The government is caught at the moment between its desire to cut down on abuse of the UK immigration system and the desperate need to open up Britain as a global tourism and business destination.
It is particularly keen to attract Chinese people due to their high spending power. In fact, the Chinese last year became the world's highest-spending tourists, dropping £65 billion on their travels abroad. Unfortunately, Britain only managed to attract around 179,000 tourists, significant less than its rivals in mainland Europe.