UK Culture Secretary Maria Miller has ordered a fresh assault on red tape for Chinese visitors amid estimates Britain is losing out on £1.2bn a year as a result of its bureaucratic system.
Officials at the Department for Culture Media and Sport, which has responsibility for tourism, are understood to have re-opened talks with the Home Office over a number of potential improvements. These include solving the language barrier around the current visa application forms, which Chinese visitors can currently only fill out in English.
A “dual processing” system that would allow Chinese tourists to submit their UK application at the same time as the simpler “Schengen” visa, which covers more than 25 European countries but not Britain, is also under consideration.
Tourism chiefs including Nick Varney of Alton Towers-owner Merlin Entertainments and Travelodge’s Grant Hearn have long decried the “onerous and costly” system to which Chinese visitors to the UK are subjected.
France receives eight times more Chinese visitors than Britain, helped by its membership of the Schengen system.
In a speech to tourism chiefs on Tuesday, Ms Miller said the Government is working hard to “reduce any perceived barriers to tourism”.
A Whitehall source said there is a “renewed vigour” at the DCMS around issues such as Chinese tourist visas.
Kevin Murphy, chief executive of London’s ExCeL exhibition centre, said: “Overzealous visa regulations are blocking some of the biggest spending potential tourists, currently the Chinese, from reaching our shores.”