How to attract more Chinese tourists after Brexit? Take note from Belarus, industry watchers say
The UK could learn from Belarus and Trinidad and Tobago when it comes to attracting Chinese tourists to Britain, travel industry commentators say.
That’s because of visa requirements that put many Chinese visitors off coming to the UK when they visit Europe on holiday, according to Jing Travel.
Currently, visitors from China and various other countries around the world can travel around European countries in the Schengen Area – including France, Germany and Czechia – on just one visa. Meanwhile, a trip to the UK requires a different visa – with prohibitive costs and extra paperwork putting off some potential holidaymakers.
Figures show that in 2015, 2.2 million Chinese travellers visited France on holiday, while Czechia saw 285,000 Chinese visitors in the same year, compared to the UK’s 270,000 Chinese arrivals.
That matters because many Chinese travellers choose to visit multiple countries when making the long trip to Europe for holidays – meaning the UK’s tourism industry could be missing out on potential business.
According to industry watchers, Belarus could have the solution to the UK’s obstacles in Chinese tourism growth.
As of early 2017, the Eastern European country introduced a new 5-day visa-free entry programme for citizens of 80 countries, including China, if they already hold a Schengen visa.
Like the UK, Belarus is not part of the Schengen area. Neither is it part of the EU – a situation soon to be faced by the UK after Brexit. However, the 5-day visa-free travel decree allows Europe-hopping tourists to include Belarus as a point on their itinerary without applying for a specific visa to the country.
Similarly, the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago is working on a visa arrangement to allow Chinese citizens holding US or Canada visas to travel to the islands, following Prime Minister Keith Rowley’s recent official visit to China.
Chinese tourism to the UK has continued to rise in recent years – with recent figures showing the number of visitor visas issued rose 150% in the five years up to 2017.
However, as Brexit looms, Mason Hinsdale from Jing Travel argues that the UK needs to more to sustain tourism from China. Visa requirements mean that “Britain is still at a distinct disadvantage compared to other European destinations,” he argues.
While Chinese tourist numbers in the UK have spiked as visitors make the most of a weak post-Brexit pound, “Britain will still need to reorient marketing and visa policy to maintain growth in tourism revenue.”