Valuable tourism business

April 15 [Tue], 2014, 17:01
According to the UK China Visa Alliance, a coalition of tourism companies and retailers, nine out of ten Chinese visitors to Europe only apply for one visa and the overwhelming majority, 82pc, opt for a Schengen visa.

Companies fear the proposed improvements to Schengen, which also include allowing online applications and a new “touring visa” allowing trips of up to a year, could drive even more business to competitor countries in Europe.

A four-bedroom villa in the Algarve region in southern Portugal fetches Europe's vast tourism around £1.15 million, while similar properties in Spain's Majorca are close behind at £1 million.

Both countries introduced "golden visa" schemes in a bid to revive property markets. The scheme allows foreigners to travel freely within Schengen European countries, and eventually become citizens after some years.The main requirement for the visa is an investment of 500,000 euros S$867,000 in the country - not a problem for the Chinese apparently, who took up 78 per cent of the 318 Portuguese golden visas issued last year.

British Airways’ parent, International Airlines Group, said: “Europe is opening its doors to high spending Chinese visitors. Our European competitors understand that they bring wealth and investment. While the UK claims to be 'open for business’ it makes it very hard and expensive for the Chinese to do business here. This is costing us jobs and growth.”

Simon Vincent, president for Europe, Middle East and Africa, at hotels giant Hilton Worldwide, said: “It’s vital that Britain can compete with the Schengen countries for overseas visitors and this announcement underpins yet again why improvements to the UK visa system are so important. These need to be driven through quickly and effectively so that the UK does not lose valuable tourism business in a sector worth well in excess of £100bn per year.”