Bottom Line: The UK needs more of China’s tourists – but not at any price

Marc Sidwell
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CHINA’S booming tourism market is an opportunity Britain can ill-afford to miss out on. China overtook Germany and the US to become the world’s largest outbound tourism market in 2012, with 83m overseas trips by its citizens. That will reach 200m by 2020, with growth of 16 per cent in the first quarter of 2013 alone, says the Chinese International Travel Monitor.

Visa issues are a key factor for a fifth of travellers, which helps to account for the disappointing performance of the UK compared to its European neighbours. While 1.2m Chinese visited Europe as tourists using a pan-European Schengen visa in 2012, just 200,000 came here.

Change was vital. Yet Theresa May faced a difficult balancing act: satisfying the demands of business on the one hand without pushing the UK into the Schengen area in our hurry to rectify the problem. The new plan for a unified form for would-be visitors still preserves our separate arrangements, making it the best of both worlds.