Airports operator BAA has backed calls by London First to streamline the visa process to encourage more Chinese visitors to travel to the UK.
It has also supported moves for earlier intervention on EU policy matters and more passenger-focused regulation.
In its white paper on growth, business lobby group London First says that 54 million Chinese went abroad in 2009, spending some $42 billion. China will be the world’s fourth-largest source of outbound tourists by 2020, with 100 million overseas visits. But in 2009, only 110,000 of those visitors came to the UK.
Nigel Milton, Heathrow policy director, said:
“There are numerous things the government can do to encourage growth without cost to the tax-payer. Ministers need to work with industry to quickly identify practical initiatives. “We need to prove Britain is really open for business by getting rid of needless red tape and ensuring we don’t isolate ourselves from the emerging world. Right now, it’s far cheaper for Chinese tourists to travel to competing hub airports like Paris or Amsterdam. China’s massive expansion in aviation is a huge opportunity for the UK and small changes could have a significant impact on UK jobs by bringing in more tourists from China and elsewhere.”
London First has also proposed improving the UK’s engagement with EU policy development by appointing a cabinet minister to take responsibility for the UK’s relationship with the EU across government, a move supported by BAA.
Milton said: “All too often the UK gets to the party too late and finds that EU rules constrain and hinder what British industry does. A good idea on paper often doesn’t translate very well to consumers. While it’s easy to blame Brussels, a better solution would be to engage earlier and more effectively to ensure our voice is heard and that we can better cut through bureaucracy which ultimately costs us all more in the long run.”
London First also calls on the government to rule in all options for new capacity in its forthcoming aviation review, adding that it must sharpen incentives in new regulation to provide better service.
Milton said: “The current system is broken and doesn’t encourage collaboration, which is why you get fall outs between airports and airlines. For example, when baggage is delayed passengers don’t care if it’s the airline, airport or ground handler’s fault - they just want better service. To make this happen, we need all parties to work together more with increased transparency allowing customers to see how well each performs. If this approach fails to improve outcomes for passengers, then there may be a role for the regulator in making parties work together more effectively.
“With the government’s policy of no increased aviation capacity, we need to accept that Heathrow will operate with less resilience than competitor hub airports such as Paris, Amsterdam and Dubai. Therefore, it is all the more important that the 350 companies at Heathrow work closer together with the right incentives in place to provide better care for passengers.”