The British Hospitality Association has welcomed the government’s decision to introduce new cheaper visas to encourage visitors from China.
It follows a long campaign by the hospitality and tourism industry to make it easier and cheaper for Chinese visitors to secure the necessary documents to visit the UK.
“We’re delighted that the government has listened to our concerns and taken this very welcome step,” said Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association.
“The Chinese love visiting the UK and spend lots of money here. In the past though it’s not been particularly cheap to secure a visa especially for multiple visits. This could be a game-changer for our hospitality industry.”
At the moment a 2-year visitor visa costs £324, but the cost will be reduced from next January to £85, the same as currently charged for a standard six month UK visitor visa.
The government is also planning to reduce the cost of 10 year visas from £747 to £85, although no date has yet been set for this.
Over 358,000 Chinese visitor applications were made in the year ending March 2015, and 96 per cent of these applications were successful and granted an entry visa to the UK.
On average they spend more than £2,700 on each trip.
Ibrahim added: “This move by the government has huge potential and benefits for the hospitality industry in the UK. As a destination we’ve suffered over the years particularly with competition from Europe.
“This will put us on a more equal footing and allow us to compete for Chinese visitors who love our heritage, history and hospitality. The BHA has worked hard and campaigned consistently for changes in the visa system and we’re really pleased the hard work has paid off.”
Hospitality chiefs from across the industry have chosen easing visa restrictions as one of their top three priority issues for the government to tackle alongside Cutting Tourism Vat and the lack of transparency for customers who use online travel agents.
Industry representatives from hotels, restaurants and catering establishments lobbied members of Parliament on these issues at a recent Hospitality and Tourism Lobby Day at the House of Commons ahead of Government’s announcement on visas.