The relaxation of UK visa rules for Chinese visitors coming to Britain has resulted in a surge in spending, according to new figures.
Chinese tourists spent 45 per cent more on their cards in the UK in July this year compared to a year ago. A total of £50 million was spent on Visa cards by Chinese visitors in the UK, leapfrogging French and Australians into second place in the international spending league. US visitors spent the most on their cards in the UK during July at £140 million.
The statistics coincide with changes in UK visa regulations, making it easier for Chinese tourists to come to Britain. Since July 1, they have been able to apply for a visa to visit the UK and the Schengen European countries in one process. The new system replaces the previous application process which meant applicants had to fill out a separate form for the UK, which in many cases were likely to be turned down.
Figures show that while 1.4 million Schengen visas were approved for Chinese visitors in 2013, fewer than 300,000 applications for UK visas received the green light in the same period.
The UK has simplified the procedure following pressure from businesses keen to benefit from the spending power of visitors from the world’s second biggest economy. It’s hoped the changes will help increase the number of Chinese visitors, which fell by more than seven per cent in 2014 to 185,000 despite an overall growth in international tourist numbers of 5.2 per cent.
According to the British Hospitality Association, the British economy has potentially lost around £1.2 billion a year in missed Chinese visitor spending because tourists instead opted to travel to Milan and Paris due to the easier visa application process.