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UKinbound calls for pilot Chinese visa scheme to become permanent

Representative body says Chinese visitor numbers have increased 20 per cent since the introduction of the scheme

Picture copyright: Alamy

UKinbound has urged the Government to make permanent its pilot Chinese visa scheme, which offers two-year multi entry visas at a reduced cost.

The association polled its members ahead of China's Golden Week holiday, which begins 1 October, and found 85 per cent its members reported an increase in bookings from China since the scheme was reduced.

The pilot is due to end January 2018.

It comes as Chinese visitor numbers increased 20 per cent in 2016, passing more than 480,000 people. Chinese visitors also spent more than £513 million in the UK last year.

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) has estimated the Chinese business travel market to be worth £245m, after it grew 9.2 per cent in 2016, making it the strongest market in the world.

UKinbound, chief executive officer, Deirdre Wells OBE said: "We’re excited to once again welcome Chinese tourists to the UK during Golden Week and it’s encouraging to hear that the Government’s two-year visa pilot has resulted in increased Chinese visitors for our tour operator members.

"It’s imperative that this trend continues and that the UK continues to signal to China that we are a welcoming and accessible destination. We urge the government to confirm that the pilot scheme will be a permanent fixture from 2018 and to also extend the length of the visa to 10 years which will encourage visitors to make more repeat visits to the UK."

Brian Bickell, chief executive, Shaftesbury Plc and chairman, UK China Visitor Alliance also commented: "The significant increase in Chinese visitor numbers shows the benefits of Government and the private sector working together to create innovative changes to the visa application process.  

"In particular our "one-stop shop" principle to apply for both a UK and Schengen visa at the same time - leading to shared application forms, shared visa application centres and longer term visas as standard - is showing great results.

"We now want to build on these successes, both through implementing the 10 year visa commitment and exploring new partnership ideas with key Schengen members."

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