European countries are fiercely competing to woo high-spending tourists from China to their countries by relaxing their visa policies as a booming economy there boosts Chinese nationals’ interest in taking holidays overseas, according to a WantChinaTimes report.
The UK government announced recently that they will simplify visa applications for Chinese visitors through a partnership with Belgium which allows travel permits for the UK and the Schengen area countries to be processed in the same center.
The new UK-Belgium agreement means that Chinese tourists and businesspeople will be able to obtain a visa for the UK and the Schengen area through a single visit to one of three joint application centers in Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai.
Under the new visa system due to take effect July 1, Chinese tourists will be able to apply for both UK and Belgian visas online using just one set of application documents, then book a single visa appointment to complete the process.
To shorten the application wait time, Britain and Belgium plan to complete the processing of the two visas within 10 working days.
In late October 2014, the UK launched the British Irish Visa Scheme which will allow Chinese nationals to travel to the UK and Ireland using a single visa when traveling on certain short stay and visitor visas.
As a result, over the past year as of March, the number of visas the UK granted to Chinese tourists and business people grew 10% year-on-year.
However, the number of Chinese tourists traveling to the country is still insignificant compared with that of France and Italy, two popular Chinese tourist destinations.
The move follows lobbying from UK retailers and business groups who complain that London is missing out on high-spending Chinese visitors who can shop in Paris, Milan and Berlin using just one visa covering the 26 nations of Europe’s border-free Schengen zone. while Britain is not part of the zone.
Data showed that one job in the UK tourism industry is created every time 22 more Chinese tourists visit the country.
Similarly, Germany, France, Spain and Italy have all simplified the visa process for Chinese visitors to their countries.
Due to its visa-easing policy, Italy said 1 million Chinese tourists are expected to visit Expo 2015 Milan, which lasts until the end of October.