David Cameron aims to entice wealthy Chinese tourists to visit the UK by introducing a two-year multiple-entry visa.
The Government unveiled the plans today to coincide with a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
It is hoped the change in visa rules will woo high-spending Chinese tourists to Britain by removing the red tape and costs associated with holidaying the UK.
According to Reuters, a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said: “It’s focusing on one of the real attractions that we have. The Chinese population like coming here for our culture, our heritage, our retail.”
Chinese visitors are currently issued with a six-month tourist visa, which costs £85. But the changes will allow tourists from China to acquire a two-year tourist visa for the same price. It will also allow the holder to leave and return to the UK without needing to complete the paperwork again.
The scheme is due to be launched in January and, if successful, the Government could extend it to introduce a 10-year multiple entry visa.
Westfield UK and Europe director of marketing Myf Ryan said: “The Government’s announcement on lowering the visa cost for Chinese tourists is an extremely welcome boost for British retail.
“Chinese shoppers are the biggest non-EU group visiting our centres. They are particularly important for the luxury goods sector spending an average £1,275 on luxury items such as jewellery and watches at Westfield London each year.”
The number of Chinese tourists visiting Britain has more than doubled over the last five years, reaching 185,000 in 2014. It is estimated that they contribute £500m to the economy every year, with each visitor spending £2,700 per visit on average. Chinese tourists overtook the French as the second highest spenders in the UK in July.
In June the Government piloted a scheme to streamline the Chinese visa application process.