|UK visa could be a ‘deal-breaker’ for Chinese|
Sunday, 1st September 2013
Source : Hotels.com
Ease of visa application a top consideration for one in five Chinese travellers.
The UK’s complex visa application system could be deterring thousands of Chinese visitors, according to the second annual Hotels.com Chinese International Travel Monitor (CITM). In a study of 3,000 Chinese residents, 19% said that the ease of applying for a visa is the top priority when planning a trip abroad.
The finding raises concerns that the UK could lose out to France and other parts of Europe that have signed the Schengen agreement. A separate visa is required to enter the UK whereas a single visa gives Chinese visitors entry to all 26 counties in the Schengen area.
To better compete with Schengen area countries, the Home Office announced plans in May to explore how the UK’s visa system could be made easier for visitors travelling in groups. While the move is a step in the right direction, a focus on group travel could mean that the UK may miss out on the growing number of independent Chinese travellers.
Two-thirds (62%) of Chinese residents now book holidays independently. This shift is being led by a rising number of affluent, younger travellers, who are more confident booking travel online or by themselves. Almost three-quarters (73%) of travellers aged under 35 now book holidays abroad independently, compared to just over half (57%) of visitors aged over 35.
When booking trips away, Hotels.com found that younger visitors are looking for different things to older travellers. Younger travellers are more likely to book at independent hotels or those that don’t cater specifically for Chinese visitors than those aged over 35.
Europe remains the top destination of choice for Chinese travellers of all ages, with 72% interested in visiting the region in the next year. France is the top European destination – and second most popular overall – whereas the UK is second in Europe and ninth globally. A third (33%) of Chinese travellers surveyed want to visit France in the next 12 months, while just one in five (19%) would like to travel to the UK.
As the world’s biggest spender on travel abroad*, the Chinese are becoming a top target worldwide, with many countries launching campaigns to attract more visitors from China. By 2015, 100 million Chinese citizens are predicted to travel abroad each year**.
“The UK cannot afford to be turning visitors away,” said Nigel Pocklington at the Hotels.com brand. “In an increasingly competitive market, we should be doing all that we can to encourage more visitors from China to spend their holidays in the UK. The government’s plan to streamline visa applications for group travellers is very welcome news, but we must not forget about the increasing numbers who prefer to travel independently. With approximately a fifth of travellers citing ease of visa application as a key consideration, the UK’s current system could be a ‘deal-breaker’ for some visitors if changes are not made. Aside from benefiting the UK’s tourism industry, relaxing restrictions on visas could provide a big boost for retailers and the wider economy.”