BA head calls for cheaper UK visas for Chinese visitors

10 Sep 2015 | Posted by Carl Thomas

The head of International Airlines Group – the parent company of British Airways – says the Government should reduce the cost of a UK visa for Chinese people visiting the UK.

Willie Walsh also wants to see a reduction in aviation tax as part of efforts to boost visitor numbers to the UK.

He has written to Chancellor George Osborne as part of a submission to the Comprehensive Spending Review, which is examining how the Government can make cuts of £20 billion between now and the end of the decade.

Mr Walsh is keen for the UK to adopt a similar visa system for Chinese visitors to that used in the US. The US has introduced 10-year visas for Chinese visitors which cost around £100.

It costs around £800 for Chinese visitors to obtain a UK visa and there are concerns that the UK is losing out on spending from one of the world’s biggest economies.

The number of Chinese visitors to the UK dipped by 7.6 per cent last year to 185,000 and their spending fell by one per cent compared to 2013.

Mr Walsh, who has been campaigning for easier UK access for Chinese visitors, is also concerned the cost of aviation tax is putting off overseas visitors and damaging the UK’s tourist economy.

In his submission, he said the UK’s Air Passenger Duty is “the highest tax of its kind anywhere in the world and acts as a major brake on tourism to the UK and inward investment”.

Scotland is planning to get rid of the tax once powers are devolved to Edinburgh to allow the Scottish Parliament to do so, and the Welsh Assembly is also keen to scrap the duty, which currently costs passengers up to £142 depending on where they are flying from.

Mr Walsh is concerned that English airports will lose out in the future as passengers are likely to choose to fly to Scottish or Welsh destinations if they do not have to pay the additional charge.