The cost of a UK tourist visa has increased to £100, sparking outrage across the British tourism sector. The London Tourism Recovery Board said: “Anything that makes the UK less affordable than our near neighbours is a barrier to recovery.” The increase represents a 5.3% rise and comes at time when Britain’s tourism sector is still recovering from the impact of COVID-19.
The increased fee will increase the cost of a holiday in the UK for tourists from many countries, including two of the world’s most populated nations, China and India. Nationals from the European Union, Australia, Canada, the US, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and Singapore can still enter the UK, visa-free.
However, tourists from several European countries will be subject to the new fee, including Bosnia, Moldova, North Macedonia, Serbia, and in its post-war era, Ukraine. Meanwhile, nations with a high number of tourists coming to Britain, such as Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Thailand and Turkey, require UK visas even for short holidays.
The new, higher fee for a UK tourist visa means that it is now out of line with the Schengen visa. The European equivalent of the UK’s tourist visa costs €80 (£69), with children aged six to 12 charged half, and those under five allowed to travel for free.
The Schengen visa allows for travel to 26 Europeans countries, including France, Italy, Spain and Greece. A family of four would pay just €240 (£206) for a Schengen visa, compared with £400 for a UK visit visa.
Britain’s leading tourism bodies have blasted the price hike.
Chief executive of UKinbound, Joss Croft, said: “The decision to increase visa prices is absolutely tone-deaf. The government says the UK is open for business and ready to welcome back international visitors but rather than making positive, informed changes that would make the UK’s visa system more internationally competitive, it has instead taken the counter-intuitive step to just increase prices.”
“The UK’s tourism industry already sits at the bottom of the table for international price competitiveness. Further taxation on visitors will only slow down the industry’s recovery, an industry that is the country’s second-largest service export, second only to financial services,” Croft added.
Mr Croft argued that the international tourism industry is ‘extremely competitive’ and urged the government to invest in further promoting Britain abroad and implement ‘smart visa policies’ and funding support to aid the recovery and growth of the tourism sector.
£200 million lost every day
Meanwhile, co-chair of the London Tourism Recovery Board and director of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, Bernard Donoghue said: “Last year UK tourism lost around £200m every day. Our industry is only just repairing and so anything that makes the UK less affordable or less attractive than our near neighbours is a barrier to recovery and growth.”
The chief executive of travel consultancy the PC Agency, Paul Charles, criticised the fee increase, arguing that the UK should be ‘visa-free right now’. He said: “I’m astonished that the government is putting more barriers in place for those wanting to come to Britain.”
“A fee increase on the UK visit visa sends the wrong message and is hardly a sign of Britain being ‘open’ for business or for leisure. This should be the year when the government is doing everything it can to attract every visitor, and that includes removing fees for a temporary period,” Mr Charles added.
Visa fee increase necessary
Despite criticism from the UK tourism industry, a Home Office spokesperson described the visa-fee increase as ‘necessary’. The spokesperson said: “The increase to the visit visa fee is necessary to address wider costs and pressures in the migration and borders system, and to fund other essential changes.”
“The last increase was in 2019. The Home Office estimates that the actual cost of processing a visit visa is £135, about one-third higher than the fee levied.”
Meanwhile, according to a VisitBritain forecast, those arriving in the UK in 2022 – meaning England, Wales and Scotland – will be just 52% of the levels seen in 2019.
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