Comments by Britain’s ambassador to China regarding the UK’s visa controls have the support of the country’s hospitality and tourism industry, according to Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association (BHA).
Sebastian Wood, Britain’s ambassador to Beijing, remarked, in a confidential letter, that the British government had allowed a “completely self-defeating” caricature of “fortress UK” to take hold which, he fears, will result in the Chinese taking their tourist dollars elsewhere.
“This has been a concern of the British hospitality and tourism industry for many years,” Ms Ibrahim said.
“Only last week at a hospitality and tourism summit the minister counsellor at the Chinese Embassy in London emphasised the extraordinary potential of the Chinese market to Britain’s tourism industry and, thus, the country’s economic future.”
There has been some alleviation in the control procedures for obtaining a tourist visa, such as information leaflets being printed in a number of different languages, but Ms Ibrahim feels it isn’t enough.
“Visas are expensive to acquire because visitors to Europe need a UK visa, in addition to a visa required by countries conforming to the Schengen Agreement.”
Ms Ibrahim believes that the government should follow their USA counterparts’ lead and reform its visa policy.
“US government departments have been tasked with working together to deliver faster visa processing times and have a goal of attracting 100 million visitors by 2021, which will bring $250 billion in visitor spending each year.
“Without compromising security, this is a move that must be followed by the British government if we are to compete on the world stage.”
“The UK spends many millions of pounds encouraging inbound tourism, yet a similar amount of money is spent discouraging those same visitors based in potentially the richest source countries.