The UK needs to adopt the Schengen System to ensure it stops missing out on vital tourists, according to World Travel & Tourism Council president David Scowsill.
The comments come as prime minister David Cameron promised to loosen visa bureaucracy for visitors from India.
Scowsill explained: “It is good to hear David Cameron is vowing to relax visa rules to allow more Indians to travel to Britain for work and study.
“Anything which allows people to travel more easily can only be a good thing, socially and economically, for the UK.
“But this is just one small step.
“The restrictive visa policies in place in the UK are making the country uncompetitive and the UK government now needs to loosen visa bureaucracy for other emerging markets like China.”
Travel generates 2.3 million jobs and contributes over $100 billion to the UK economy every year and reforms in visa facilitation have the potential to create many additional jobs in the UK, according to the WTTC.
“China’s economy is growing faster than any other,” continued Scowsill.
“Yet, the UK is currently losing out on thousands of Chinese tourists to our nearby neighbours because Chinese tourists face higher fees and have to complete a longer application form than if they want to visit most other countries in Europe.
“Chinese outbound travellers totalled 84 million last year and the UK receives only a small fraction of them
“It’s time for Britain to become part of the Schengen system that offers Chinese visitors the chance to visit 26 countries in Europe on a single visa.”
Research by the WTTC reveals visa facilitation has historically increased international tourist arrivals of affected markets by five to 25 per cent, following the implementation of policy changes.
“Cameron’s promise to loosen visa bureaucracy in India is all well and good, but if he really wants to make a difference to Britain’s economy and create jobs, he needs to fundamentally reform visa policies for booming economies like China too,” concluded Scowsill.