In October 2015, UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced a pilot scheme for a two-year UK-China visitor visa costing £87. The report recommended that Indian nationals have the same opportunity.
This report published by the Royal Commonwealth Society in partnership with leading aviation tourism and industry groups including the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), recommends that India is added to the UK’s latest £87 two-year visitor visa scheme. The reform would help reverse the UK’s falling market share of global Indian tourists, which has halved over the last decade. The estimated cost to the UK economy is almost £500m per year and over 8,000 jobs. France has now leapfrogged the UK as India’s most visited European nation, attracting 500,000 visitors from the subcontinent in 2015.
Nigel Huddleston, the Member of Parliament for Mid Worcestershire said; “I believe that the changes advocated in this report would help re-establish the UK as the leading destination for Indian visitors by making a clear statement that we are open for business.”
At present Indian visitors continue to pay a hefty £330 for a two-year visa, or £87 for six-months.
UK-Indian relations are strong. They share deep economic and cultural ties – most notably through the Indian diaspora of 1.4 million. Indian business visitors also spent £201m in 2015; almost three times the average spend on business trips to the UK. However, with the number of Indian tourists growing 10% year-on-year the UK should be capitalising on its immense potential for attracting visitors.
Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) said: “To optimize exchanges of people, business and ideas, it is important that both the UK and Indian governments discuss this promising proposal openly and collaboratively consider delivering it. The strength of the UK-India relationship today must also reflect in a stronger visa regime.”
Dr Naushad Forbes, President, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Co-chairman, Forbes Marshall said: “From an inward investment point of view, the 2 year UK visitor visa for India would enhance ease of doing business with the UK rather than securing a visa every 6 months! And that’s how business in the 21st century should be –practical, productive and problem-free.”
Next year offers the most opportune time to introduce this change with 2017 designated the UK-India Year of Culture, marking 70 years of Indian Independence. Throughout 2017 both nations will see a strong collaboration in business, art, music, design and much more. Having a cheaper and extended UK visitor visa will help enhance these endeavors.
Furthermore, the UK’s decision to leave the European Union will undoubtedly lead to a dramatic shift in the UK’s relationship with the rest of the world. At a time when the UK is reviewing its global position, it is even more pressing that it deepens its Commonwealth ties and sends a message to the world that it welcomes visitors.
The report’s author, Tim Hewish, Director of Policy and Research at the Royal Commonwealth Society said: “We hope that the government will consider the very clear benefits of our recommendation, enhancing the already close affinity between two great Commonwealth nations.”