The Government has revealed its plans to streamline the visa application process to make it easier for Chinese tourists to visit the UK.

Theresa May last night announced the extension of a pilot that allows tour operators to use a Schengen form to apply for a UK visa, making it easier to apply for both visas at the same time.

The biggest obstacle to Chinese tourists is the application process, which means they have to fill out two forms – one for a Schengen, which allows access to Europe and another for the UK.

It is estimated that retailers are missing out on an estimated £1.2bn spend from Chinese tourists.

A report released by the UK China Visa Alliance yesterday revealed 90% of Chinese tour groups to Europe each year are missing out the UK. By comparison, more than 80% said their trips focused on itineraries for France and Germany. But 71% of tour operators surveyed said they would put the UK on European itineraries on the condition that the UK visa application process is simplified or indeed merged with the Schengen visa.

May said improvements to the visa system had already led to a 40% increase in visitor numbers last year.

The new moves coincide with the Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang’s visit to Britain.