Given Europe’s appeal with Chinese tourists, the move will bolster the number of tourists including the UK in their travel itineraries. The single application – possible via selected travel agencies only – follows a number of critical reports in the media about how the UK’s visa process is perceived by potential Chinese tourists (and the potential tourism income that the UK is missing out on).
A 24-hour “super priority” visa service will also be available from next summer, while a mobile visa service will also be expanded beyond Beijing and Shanghai, announced UKBA.
Under the latest immigration ruling, all tourists now have the right to study in the UK for up to 30 days, which means that more Chinese tourists could also benefit the country’s English language teaching sector.
Tony Millns, Chief Executive of English UK, commented, “Any increase in the number of Chinese visitors to the UK may marginally increase the number taking a short course such as English language as well.”
Asked if the new process could also attract more students due to families being able to visit more easily, Susan Young, communications consultant at English UK, added, “Yes, I think we can assume that. It does sound like the two forms of biometric capture (UK and Schengen) will definitely happen side by side too.”
Last year, Italy represented 251,646 student weeks in the UK ELT market, while China represented 84,097.
France and Germany welcomed more than 1 million visitors from China last year, compared to 215,000 to the UK, with the estimated loss to competitors standing at £1.2 billion of Chinese tourism receipts, according to Travel Weekly.