Harrods managing director Michael Ward has warned that measures taken by the Government to make it easier for Chinese visitors to come to the UK are likely to have little effect.

Ward described changes unveiled in October by Chancellor George Osborne as “smoke and mirrors”, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Retailers, particularly upscale businesses such as Harrods and Selfridges, have long been concerned that the visa process for Chinese visitors to the UK is too complex.

Many wealthy tourists have avoided visiting as a result, and spend has been lost to other European countries that are easier to enter using the Schengen visa system. It is estimated that the UK loses out on sales of £1.2bn per year because of its separate requirements.

In October, the Chancellor launched a trial scheme enabling Chinese visitors to get a UK visa simply by submitting a Schengen document rather than having to apply separately.

The scheme is restricted to certain Chinese travel agents however, and Ward said that it would not help wealthy independent travellers.

Ward made his comments at a breakfast for luxury brand bosses organised by trade body Walpole.