UKinbound: make China visa scheme permanent

With China’s Golden Week holiday set to start on October 1, UKinbound is calling for the multi-entry Chinese visa scheme to become permanent.

The trade association reports that members have seen a boost in business thanks to a pilot visa scheme, which is due to end in January 2018.

UKinbound surveyed its tour operator members and found 85% of respondents said bookings from China have increased since it was introduced.

The poll showed that 96% of respondents were aware of the visa pilot and 73% wanted the government to offer multi-entry UK visas over longer periods of time, for the same cost. The current two-year pilot visa costs £85.

One-stop-shop visa application centres and application forms in Chinese languages were also addressed as important improvements that could be made.

In 2016, the number of visitor visas issued in China to the UK increased by 20% year-on-year to more than 480,000.

Deirdre Wells, UKinbound chief executive, said: “We’re excited to once again welcome Chinese tourists to the UK during Golden Week and it’s encouraging to hear that the Government’s two-year visa pilot has resulted in increased Chinese visitors for our tour operator members.

“It’s imperative that this trend continues and that the UK continues to signal to China that we are a welcoming and accessible destination.

“We urge the government to confirm that the pilot scheme will be a permanent fixture from 2018 and to also extend the length of the visa to 10 years which will encourage visitors to make more repeat visits to the UK.”

Brian Bickell, chief executive of Shaftesbury Plc and chairman of the UK China Visitor Alliance, added: “The significant increase in Chinese visitor numbers shows the benefits of government and the private sector working together to create innovative changes to the visa application process.”