The UK China Visa Alliance (UKCVA), which is spearheaded by firms including New West End Company, London First and Walpole British Luxury, believes the move to streamline Chinese Visa policy could provide a £1.2bn boost to the UK economy.

Home secretary Theresa May revealed last week that Government is making it easier for Chinese visitors to come to the UK by simplifying documentation requirements.

The changes include shortened online application forms, a passport pass-back system, which allows visitors to keep their passport while their visa is being processed, and training for agents so they can better assist Chinese customers.

The UKCVA said this was a welcome first step. Analysis by the UKCVA shows that the UK underperforms in terms of the number of Chinese visitors it attracts compared to other major European countries.

It estimates that this underperformance costs the UK economy £1.2bn per year and research shows that most Chinese visitors will only apply for one visa when visiting Europe.

New West End Company chief executive Richard Dickinson said: “To quote the Chinese proverb, every long journey begins with small steps. Certainly more will need to be done in order to unlock the potential £1.2bn that UK plc is currently missing out on while our continental friends continue to create jobs and growth as a result of more customer focussed visa arrangements.”

Walpole chief executive Julia Carrick added: “High-spending Chinese tourists are behind the success story of many established and emerging luxury retailers as well as tourism destinations in the UK but we are not yet harnessing their full spending potential.”