Visa rules blamed for drop in U.K. tourism

Oct. 12, 2012 at 9:33 AM

LONDON, Oct. 12 (UPI) -- British tourism industry officials are urging the government to loosen visa restrictions they say are keeping away visitors from wealthy developing countries.

Government data revealed tourism in Britain was down 5 percent in August over the same month in 2011 despite the presence of the Olympic Games, The Daily Telegraph reported Thursday.

Grant Hearn, chief executive of Travelodge, said the information from the Office for National Statistics was "very disappointing news" and urged Prime Minister David Cameron to trim the paperwork necessary for tourists from the affluent countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China to get visas.

Hearn noted that the United States had introduced a five-year multi-entry visa to encourage wealthy Chinese to visit.

British visa restrictions are "onerous and costly," said Nick Varney, head of Merlin Entertainments, which operates Madame Tussauds, Alton Towers and other amusement venues around the United Kingdom and Europe.

Varney charged the government was in danger of "squandering" interest in Britain following the Olympics and the queen's Jubilee year.

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