A pilot scheme to streamline visa application procedures for visitors to the United Kingdom and the Schengen area was announced yesterday by the British and Belgian governments.
According to Shanghai Daily, a new UK-Belgian Visitor Service will be established by which Chinese customers will be able to simultaneously apply for visas to both countries.
The new scheme will mean that visitors from China will be able to obtain a visa for both the UK and the Schengen area, to which the UK does not belong, without having to complete two separate applications. Under Schengen visa rules, successful Belgian visa applicants can also travel freely within any of the 25 other Schengen area countries.
The news will be well received by the British tourism industry. In 2013 it was estimated that the laborious application process required for travel to the UK, coupled with the fact that a British visa doesn’t allow the holder to visit continental Europe, was costing the country £5 million per day.
Britain’s Home Secretary Theresa May said “the number of Chinese visitors coming to the UK continues to soar. This scheme will create a one-stop shop for Chinese visitors to the UK and Europe, whether they are coming here for business or leisure.”
Several European countries are frantically positioning themselves to get a slice of the Chinese tourism pie, which will continue to grow exponentially over the coming years, especially given the propensity of mainland tourists to spend, spend, spend while abroad.
France and Britain are predicted to be the most successful European countries at luring in Chinese tourists at the expense of more familiar destinations for mainland travellers such as Hong Kong.
By Dominic Jackson