‘Honour pledge on cheaper Chinese visas’, says BA chief

British Airways CEO, Willie Walsh, has called on the government to ‘Honour pledge on cheaper Chinese visas’, over concerns that UK 10-year visas are less competitive that it’s European neighbours.

British Airways i360 in Brighton
The government must honour its pledge to make it easier and cheaper for Chinese business leaders and holidaymakers to visit the UK, demanded, Willie Walsh, the chief executive of British Airways owner IAG.

Visa for Chinese visitors to the UK

In a letter to Home Secretary Amber Rudd – published just days ahead of Prime Minister Theresa May’s official visit to Beijing – Mr Walsh said the UK needed to adopt a “step change” on China.He pointed out that, in October 2015, when President Xi Jinping was on a state visit to Britain, the government said it would trial a reduced price, 10-year visa for Chinese visitors, but that there had been no action on this pledge.

Biometric visas issued by Schengen countries

The letter also called on the government to implement two proposals made by the UK China Visitor Alliance: for the UK to recognise biometric visas now being issued by Schengen countries, and for the granting of visas to the parents of Chinese students studying in the UK.“We need a step change on China,” said Mr Walsh. “We make it hard for Chinese tourists to visit. The USA charges £119 for a 10-year visa while Britain charges £767.“Making it easier for Chinese businesses and tourists to come to the UK is critical to boosting our economy and enhancing global trading links, especially post Brexit. We continue to lose out on the new jobs that Chinese investment and affluent tourists bring.”
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UK at a 'competitive disadvantage'

In 2016, the UK issued 480,000 visas to Chinese visitors while France, Germany, Italy and Spain together issued 1.5 million.IAG pointed out that Schengen visas cost 99 euro and offers free access to 26 countries, putting the UK at a “competitive disadvantage”.According to the Daily Telegraph, Mr Walsh’s call is being backed by Michael Ward, the managing director of Harrods, who said the delay in introducing the lower price 10-year visa was “having an adverse impact on British business”.“As we move towards the date of our departure from the EU, it is essential for businesses across the country that we remove unnecessary complexity, cost and delays for Chinese consumers who choose to visit the UK,” he said.“With more Chinese consumers wishing to visit the UK than ever before, this requires immediate action from the government to avoid further damage to the economy.”Mr Walsh’s call comes in the wake of a bilateral agreement, signed recently between the UK and China, increasing the maximum number of weekly flights between the two countries from 100 to 150. Recent data showed that, in 2016, about 122 million Chinese made trips overseas in 2016, up 4.3 per cent on the previous year.
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