The head of one of the biggest airline groups in the world has criticised the British Government over its failure to provide 10-year UK visas for Chinese visitors.
International Airlines Group chief executive Willie Walsh said that unless the Government acts, the UK will “continue to lose out on the economic benefits that they can bring to the UK”.
Mr Walsh, whose group includes British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus, said the Government was dragging its heels after promising to introduce the 10-year visa during Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to Britain in October last year. In January this year, a two-year visa was introduced to allow Chinese visitors to make repeat visits to Britain without having to apply for new documentation each time.
But Mr Walsh believes it has now become even more critical for the Government to act and bring in a longer term visa so that the UK can benefit from the spending power of Chinese visitors.
He said: "We need to ensure we can trade effectively post-Brexit. The US already has a standard 10-year visa which costs around £100 while Britain's costs £800. The Government needs to match its rhetoric on China with action."
The UK exported goods and services worth nearly £13 billion to China last year. Mr Walsh says more needs to be done to expand and strengthen trade links with the country, which has the second largest economy in the world.
Currently, it is easier for Chinese visitors to travel across the Schengen countries in Europe than it is for them to come to Britain.
The Home Office said that it was assessing the impact of the two-year multiple entry visit visa scheme, introduced at the start of this year, before it would look at bringing in a 10-year version.