At a Tourism Alliance breakfast meeting today, at which Paul Gardner Bougaard was present, Mark Harper, the new tourism minister congratulated the Government on making significant improvements to the UK visa processing service in China.
The improvements include a simplification and improvements of the process; special assistance for businesses; a system whereby customers can keep their passport whilst their visa is being processed; extra training for agents; a new biometric service; priority visa eligibility.
Tourism Alliance has been working closely with the Government on these reforms, which are the start of an on-going process to generate 500,000 tourism visitors from China by 2015.
Chinese outbound tourism is growing at an incredible rate with the World Tourism Organisation predicting that, by 2020, there will be 100m Chinese outbound tourists. However, the UK currently receives just 0.2% of the Chinese market and has been losing market share to other European destinations by being outside the Schengen region.
Tourism Alliance Chairman, Michael Hirst OBE stated “This is an important first step in improving the competitiveness of the UK as a destination for Chinese visitors and will leverage the enhanced perception that the Chinese have of the UK in the wake of the hugely successful Olympic Games.”
“It is important that we capitalise on this start by continuing to find ways that we can improve our visa processing. We don’t just want to compete with other European countries in important growth markets such as China, Russia and India, we want to out-compete them and get to the stage where we are the automatic destination of choice for visitors from these countries wanting a European holiday.