Government efforts to simplify the UK visa system for Chinese people who come to Britain on business and leisure purposes have “failed miserably”, according to the chief executive of British Airways owner IAG.
Willie Walsh spoke out after official figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that the number of visits from China fell by almost eight per cent in 2014 compared to 2013, the number of nights they spent in the UK dropped by 8.8 per cent and spending by Chinese visitors fell by one per cent.
It comes despite the Government attempting to make it easier for Chinese visitors to obtain UK visas, following pressure from business groups.
Mr Walsh said: “The Government’s plans to increase numbers have failed miserably. The UK continues to miss out on the jobs and growth that Chinese visitors could bring to these shores.
“There are eight times as many Chinese visitors to France than the UK. While the US has just introduced 10 year visas, the UK is tinkering with changes to a system that is not fit for purpose. What we need is a radical overhaul.”
The visa relaxations are also being backed by a marketing campaign in China by VisitBritain, including a promotion where famous British landmarks were given Chinese names.
A spokesman said: “We are optimistic that there will be a further increase in Chinese holiday visits in 2015 and beyond.”
The Chinese visitor figures come from the new ONS 2014 International Passenger Survey.
The annual report breaks down the number of visitors to the UK from different countries and how much they spend on average while in Britain.
The report revealed that both visitor numbers and spending were also down from Middle East countries including Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.