30 November 2022, Virtual
12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
Business Travel Show Europe, presented by The BTN
Home secretary Theresa May yesterday (June 16) failed to announce any fresh measures to make it easier for Chinese travellers to obtain a UK business visa.
May did announce changes to the tourist visa process for Chinese travellers, after pressure from Beijing to simplify the system.
Chinese tourists will now be able to use the same website to apply for a British and a Schengen visa, which allows travel to almost all other EU countries.
Currently Chinese visitors have to go through the application process twice; once for a Schengen visa which allows them to access 26 European countries, and a second time for a UK visa.
Despite this May didn’t make any changes for business travellers apart from reiterating that a 24 hour, “super priority”, visa service announced last year, would be in operation from August – This will reportedly cost £600.
‘Eroding British strength’
The announcement follows comments last week from China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, who warned Britain had fallen behind France and Germany in Beijing’s estimation, mainly because of the difficult visa system.
“I receive complaints from businesses based here. They have difficulties to rotate their senior executives because of visa restrictions. That made their operations more difficult than they are in other European countries,” Xiaoming said.
“So I think visa issues really erode British strength in terms of attracting more foreign businesses, attracting talented people. So I do wish more progress will be made on this issue.”
Stephen McCall, COO at hotel group IHG, welcomed the 24 hour ‘super priority’ visa for Chinese business travellers and doesn’t believe the £600 cost will put business off.
“We have no reason to believe that the pricing of these visas will be a significant barrier to entry, most travellers will not need their visa this quickly and therefore will be paying less,” McCall told BBT.
He also welcomed the changes made in the visa system and is pleased the Government has listened to industry concerns.
“It is a timely move, coming as Governments around the world are making improvements to their own visa systems to compete for this growing market, and builds on the changes announced in this area to date.
"While the benefits accrue directly to inbound Chinese travellers to the UK, any UK-business that wants to build strong relationships with China will welcome the fact that it will now be easier for Chinese visitors to come to the UK.”
According to UK government figures, 210,000 visas were issued to Chinese citizens last year, with visits contributing around £300 million to the UK economy.