The Chinese may be coming, but it’s a moot point as to whether they’ll be coming to Britain. Hence the culture secretary’s Jeremy Hunt’s efforts this week to reassure Britain’s frustrated tourism and aviation leaders who have long urged the government to simplify the costly visa regime that deters these potential visitors.
Although the figures are disputed, about 25-50% more Chinese tourists are believed to visit France than Britain; some indicators suggest there are up to eight times as many visits. A UK visitor visa requires lengthy forms with original supporting documents and costs £78, compared with the €60 (£47.60) that buys access to the whole European Schengen zone. The UK visa also requires biometric data, which involves applications in person, although Europe will follow suit next year.