Hospitality sector pushes for UK Visitor Visa reforms to increase tourism

Hospitality and tourism industry leaders are pressing the British government to reform the UK visa system, claiming that the slow processing of Visitor Visa applications and government red tape are negatively affecting the growth of the hospitality industry and discouraging visitors from coming to the UK.

The British Hospitality Association (BHA) has written to the prime minister about the future of the tourism sector. In the letter, BHA chief executive, Ufi Ibrahim, said that government action is required to create the necessary conditions in which new jobs can be created in the hospitality industry in order to help improve the economy,

She called for a number of measures to promote growth in the hospitality sector, starting with a decrease in the cost of visa applications so that visitors from other countries find it easier and cheaper to come to the UK. Specifically, she urged UK immigration to recognise the difficulties in making Visitor Visa applications and to address the issue so the industry can achieve the UK government's aim of increasing the number of Chinese tourists from 0.5 percent to 2.5 percent.

"Visa costs are high and there are lengthy delays in approving visa applications. We make it too difficult for non-EU residents to visit Britain," said Ibrahim in the letter.

Ibrahim also added that the "mega events" being celebrated in the UK next year - the London Olympics and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee - represent "huge marketing and promotional opportunities". However, "co-ordination and collaboration between the various agencies has been lacking, so the returns are so far muted."

In a survey published in 2010 by the European Tour Operators Association (ETOA), 58,000 tourists cancelled their trip to the UK in 2009 due to slow Visitor Visa processing; ETOA estimates that nearly 314,000 tourists decided not even to apply.

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