London will lose out if Chinese tourists continue to be turned away

By | Category: Travel rumblings

Finally. The government has told tourism chiefs that the UK needs to make it easier for wealthy Chinese tourists to come to the capital and spend their kuai (slang for RMB or yuan).

This is welcome and long overdue news. Right now London – despite having been in the spotlight the past couple of years thanks to the Royal Wedding, Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and London Olympic Games – is rarely visited by Chinese tourists.

Why? Take a bow the overly pedantic visa application. Chinese travellers are currently required to fill out a 30 page visa form (in English) to visit the UK, whereas a ‘Schengen’ visa encompasses vast parts of both eastern and western Europe – just not Blighty. Little wonder then that while so many of my former colleagues in Beijing had been to Berlin, Paris and other great European cities in their droves, not one them had experienced London.

China’s young generation want to travel – they are, I can attest, enthrall to the west and voracious consumers of all things English, from food to fashion – but are deterred by the long and lengthy visa process. And who can blame them?

Speaking at World Travel Market – the world’s biggest tourism event – earlier this week, Culture Secretary Maria Miller pledged to remove “barriers to [tourism] growth.” Miller added: “How do we open up and facilitate travel without compromising the security of our borders?”

The answer to this may not be clear, but what is obvious is that we need one – and asap. The affluent Chinese long to travel to London and have cash to splash (I used to watch in amazement as my ex colleagues produced wads of hard cash to pay for luxury items when on business trips abroad). It’s time to roll out the welcome mat.


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