UK expected to loosen visa policy for Chinese tourists

World Today

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) stretches to shake hands with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond after a joint news conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Beijing, China, January 5, 2016. Wang said on Tuesday that Hong Kong bookseller Lee Bo specializing in publications critical of China is “first and foremost a Chinese citizen” and called on others not to make “groundless accusations” on the case. REUTERS/Jason Lee

The U.K. is expected to announce the launch of a new two-year multiple-entry visa for Chinese tourists, with plans for a 10-year visa, when Britain’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond begins two days of talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi Tuesday.

The new visa, which costs $130 , makes it easier for Chinese travelers to come to the country, which currently limits Chinese to six-month visas. Britain will also make it easier for Chinese travelers to collect their visas before departing.

The new policy is seen as the latest move from the U.K. to win over more of China’s large outbound tourism market. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the UK over the summer is expected to add to popularity of Britain as a tourist spot.

“We do pomp and heritage so well and you can see that in the events we’ve had from pictures of the Chinese president himself taking part in that history and tradition,” said Patricia Yates, Strategy Director of Visit Britain, the country’s national tourism agency. 

Chinese travelers to Britain appear to agree, and have made trips to the country in record numbers. In the first half of last year, the number of Chinese tourists to the U.K. was up nearly 30 percent to 90,000 significantly. They stayed longer and spent more than tourists from any other country.

Meanwhile, according to Visit Britain, the number of tourists who feel welcome in Britain has more than doubled in the last five years, and it is hoped that the new change to the visa will make the U.K. appear even more approachable for Chinese tourists.

Tourism is Britain’s seventh largest export industry, and is estimated to be worth around $50 billion  in 2016.