France’s fast-track Chinese visa is direct challenge to LondonJanuary 16, 2014
France has certainly thrown down a gauntlet by unveiling a fast-track 48-hour visa processing system for Chinese tourists, in direct challenge to London and the capital’s bid to attract high spending tourists (as reported in yesterday’s Evening Standard).
London First, alongside its partners in the UK China Visa Alliance (UKCVA), has been actively campaigning for improvements in the UK visitor visa regime which do not comprise UK border security.
Our central argument is that the government needs to streamline the UK visa application with that of the European Schengen system so that, in effect, people can apply for both visas at the same time and place.
In recent months, we have welcomed the Home Office’s new willingness to explore ways to simplify and streamline the processes for applying for a UK and a European visa in parallel.
We were encouraged, for example, by the pilot scheme designed to reduce paperwork by allowing approved tour operators to use a Schengen form for their UK’s application, announced by the Chancellor last autumn.
But this latest news from France demonstrates that we can’t rest on our laurels. With data from Hotels.com showing more Chinese visitors are traveling independently of tour groups, we need recent visa improvements to be rolled out more widely, and we need to work more closely with our European counterparts to streamline further.
Cautious estimates are that the UK has been losing some £1.2 billion annually in lost retail sales alone, highlighting the need to compete more effectively.
We need to strive for continuous improvement in the visa service we offer our customers, to allow the UK’s tourism industry and wider economy to fully benefit from this fast-growing market.