UK China Visa Alliance welcomes longer standard visas for Chinese visitors but says it will continue to push for 10-year permits.
The Government’s extension of the standard visa term for Chinese visitors from six months to two years is great news for retailers. It will lead to more spending in shops and at attractions, and more jobs in London and other tourist areas.
Chinese tourist numbers to the UK are low compared with our European neighbours but spending per visitor is high. In August 2015, spending by Chinese visitors was the second highest of all the nations recorded per visit to London, an average of £1,196, according to tax free refund specialist Global Blue.
However, this is just the first step for the UK China Visa Alliance, a group of businesses focused on increasing Chinese tourist numbers to the UK. Work continues to the ultimate goal of ensuring 10-year visas are made available to Chinese tourists in order to make Britain an option on every trip to Europe.
Push for 10-year visas
The benefits of such a move were proven when the US introduced 10-year visas to Chinese people at the end of 2013: visitor numbers increased by nearly 70% in the first two months.
UKCVA is confident that if the UK adopted the same policy it would encourage more than 250,000 additional high-spending tourists each year, boosting the economy by about £337m in additional revenue for businesses.
Chinese visitors are generally low risk when it comes to infringements of immigration law. Repeat applications cause unnecessary bureaucracy. UKCVA’s calculations suggest that 10-year visas could save the Home Office £19.5m in administration costs every year, a significant saving in the economic environment in which we are currently operating.
New West End Company has been part of UKCVA since its inception in 2012, and has been heavily involved in efforts to persuade the Home Office to improve the visa application process and streamline the system. The West End as a shopping destination is a big draw for Chinese visitors, and we based our arguments on the contribution they make to the UK economy.
For everyone who has dedicated efforts to securing change, the adoption of two-year visas as the norm comes as a great reward. The benefit of two-year visas will be felt across the West End, London and the UK as a whole.
New West End Company and its partners in the UKCVA are immensely proud to have spearheaded efforts to win a change to the way Chinese visas are issued, and the benefit of two-year visas will be felt across the West End, London and the UK as visitors begin to make the most of the opportunity.
But this achievement cannot be the end of the process – it must be just the latest step towards the ultimate goal of 10-year visas, and the considerable boost to the retail industry they will bring will be realised.
- Jace Tyrrell is the chief executive of New West End Company, which represents the people and organisations within London’s West End