The UK tourism industry claims that it is losing millions of pounds in revenue each year as the visitor’s visa system is too complicated. This is putting off high-spending visitors to the UK, in particular visitors from China. On 11 July’s edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Face the Facts’, journalist John Waite investigated and called upon the help of Professor John Fletcher, Director of the International Centre for Tourism and Hospitality Research at Bournemouth University, to give his opinion and to shed some light on the facts regarding the situation.
John Waite asked Professor Fletcher how the UK would compete with rival tourism destinations who were targeting newly affluent travellers like Chinese students. “The forecast over the next 17 years is for tourism to grow significantly, possibly by around 60 per cent, and most of this growth is likely to come from China,” said Professor Fletcher.
“China has got massive potential of millions of tourists, and they spend a lot more than the average international visitors to the UK – the average international visitor to the UK spends around about £550 on a trip: the average visitor from China spends about £1,600 to £1,700 per trip.” He then pointed out that if the visitor from China is visiting several countries in Europe, they only need to get one visa for multiple countries, but would need an additional visa if they wanted to visit the UK. “It’s not just what it costs, it’s the effort required to get a UK visa, and it’s just crazy,” was Professor Fletcher’s verdict.
He continued that Britain should follow Switzerland’s example of joining Europe’s Schengen scheme – this creates a ‘Borderless State’ when it comes to international travel. It allows people to pass, without questioning, across the borders of countries who are within the ‘Schengen Area’ – the area formed by all of the countries who are part of the Agreement.
“I fail to understand why we are not part of the Schengen system, because without being part of the Schengen system it’s forcing nationalities from outside Europe to get two visas: one for Europe and for every other country in Europe, and then one for the UK,” Professor Fletcher concluded.
Written by James Hearn