By David Scowsill, President & CEO, World Travel and Tourism Council
It is good to hear that David Cameron is vowing to relax visa rules to allow more Indians to travel to Britain for work and study.
Anything which allows people to travel more easily can only be a good thing, socially and economically, for the UK. But this is just one small step. The UK’s restrictive visa policies are making the UK uncompetitive and the UK Government now needs to loosen visa bureaucracy for other emerging markets like China.
China’s economy is growing faster than any other. Yet, the UK is currently losing out on thousands of Chinese tourists to our nearby neighbours because Chinese tourists face higher fees and have to complete a longer application form than if they want to visit most other countries in Europe. Chinese outbound travellers totalled 84 million last year and the UK receives only a small fraction of them
It’s time for Britain to become part of the Schengen system that offers Chinese visitors the chance to visit 26 countries in Europe on a single visa.
Travel & Tourism generates 2.3 million jobs and contributes over $100 billion to the UK economy every year and reforms in visa facilitation have the potential to create many additional jobs in the UK. Research by the Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) shows visa facilitation has historically increased international tourist arrivals of affected markets by 5-25%, following the implementation of policy changes.
Mr Cameron’s promise to loosen visa bureaucracy in India is all well and good, but if he really wants to make a difference to Britain’s economy and create jobs, he needs to fundamentally reform visa policies for booming economies like China too.
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