The UK Government has been accused of stifling potential tourism from China by the British Hospitality Association.
The association"s chief executive Ufi Ibrahim said the Government is "putting every obstacle in the way of encouraging the Chinese market which has the potential of creating thousands of jobs".
She spoke out as a confidential letter was leaked with comments from Sebastian Wood, Britain"s Ambassador to Beijing, about visa controls.
In it, he said the British government had allowed a "completely self defeating" caricature of "fortress UK" to take hold which meant the Chinese were increasingly taking their "tourist dollars" elsewhere.
"This has been a concern of the British hospitality and tourism industry for many years and we have expressed our concerns at the highest levels - with little result," said Ibrahim.
"Only last week, at a Hospitality and Tourism Summit held in London, the minister counsellor at the Chinese Embassy in London emphasised the extraordinary potential of the Chinese market to Britain"s tourism industry - and thus, to the country"s economic future."
Ibrahim said although information leaflets were now printed in a number of different languages, visa forms were still in English and biometric information was still required, with a personal visit to a visa centre.
"Visas are also expensive to acquire because visitors to Europe need a UK visa in addition to a visa required by countries conforming to the Schengen Agreement - thus doubling the cost," she added.
She praised the US which has recently recognised that visa policy reform is key.
"US government departments have been tasked with working together to deliver faster visa processing times and have set a goal of attracting 100m visitors by 2021, which will bring $250bn 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.
"If ever there was a case for joined up government, this is it."
Friday, June 8, 2012