AOA says rules impede Chinese tourism

Feb. 23, 2013 at 8:32 AM
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LONDON, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Airport operators in Britain said a substantial portion of revenue is lost due to a cumbersome visa system required for Chinese nationals.

In a letter to British authorities, including Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, the Airport Operators Association said a revenue reduction of $1.8 billion is due to Chinese tourists who choose to go elsewhere to avoid an expensive and burdensome British system for obtaining visas.

Chinese nationals must pay a relatively high fee, have their fingerprints taken and fill out an extensive application form to visit Britain, The Daily Telegraph reported Saturday.

"A key cause of this unwillingness to travel here is our visa system, which people view as expensive, cumbersome and bureaucratic," said AOA Chief Executive Officer Darren Caplan.

The problem is all the more acute because Chinese tourists spend an average of $2,421 per person while visiting Britain, "at least twice that of any other visiting nation," Caplan said.

Airport operators said spending at airport shops represented a third of their non-aeronautical revenue each year. They also said fewer than 200,000 Chinese tourists visited Britain in 2011.

They urged authorities to simplify the visa process.

"Any increase in the number of visits the Chinese make to Britain would benefit this vibrant retail sector and the employment it generates," said Sarah Branquinho, chairwoman of the UK Travel Retail Forum.

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