Leading retailers have renewed their pleas for the government to overhaul its system regarding Chinese visas, claiming a simplified regime would boost the UK's economy by £337m.
The UK China Visa Alliance (UKCVA) – which is made up of businesses such as retail park group McArthurGlen, retail body New West End Company, Walpole, London First and Worldpay – is calling on the UK government to make 10 year visas the default offering to Chinese visitors and drop their cost from £737 to just £135.
This would bring nearly 265,000 additional “high-spending tourists” to the UK each year, which would boost the country's tourism, leisure and retail sectors in turn.
In August this year Chinese visitors were second only to visitors from Qatar in their spend per head, notching up £838 per visit to Oxford Street.
Currently the UK issues nearly 400,000 visitor visas in China each year, which cost £85 to buy but £135 to process – a sum that is swallowed by the taxpayer - and grant svisitors access for just six months.
The UKCVA claims that Chinese tourists would be willing to stomach the £135 cost, which would save the Home Office £19.5m each year in administration fees. Currently 10-year visas are a whopping £737 per person.
The estimates are based on a similar move made by the US, which saw the numbers of visas issued in China grow by 68 per cent in the first two months after introduction.
“At £737, 10 year visas are deemed a considerable investment for Chinese visitors, particularly in addition to the cost of a Schengen visa,” the UKCVA said.
John Dickie, director of policy and strategy at London First, added: “The changes we have suggested would be a win-win for the government and for businesses.
“Not only would they give us a bigger share of the world’s largest tourist market, they would encourage these lucrative visitors to come back again and again.
“It would be another step in the right direction for a government that is building a good record in this area, as demonstrated by its efforts to streamline the UK and Schengen visas process.”