UK tour group: What we are doing to visitors “extraordinarily damaging”

UK-based European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) has always had a reputation of being vocal about its position in matters pertaining to the travel and tourism industry.

UK tour group: What we are doing to visitors “extraordinarily damaging”

UK-based European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) has always had a reputation of being vocal about its position in matters pertaining to the travel and tourism industry. The Tom Jenkins-led group, as expected, released a general statement regarding today’s announcement of the simplification of visa applications for Chinese visitors to the UK.

ETOA said: “What we have been doing to our visitors has been extraordinarily damaging; and so the announcement from George Osborne is good news for potential visitors and so good news for Britain. Its significance is wider: by making Britain more attractive (or, more correctly, less unattractive) the Chancellor has strengthened Continental Europe as a destination too.”

The disparity with Britain’s European neighbors is striking, said ETOA. “France welcomed 1.28 million Chinese visitors in 2012. Britain had 149,000 in the same period. The total loss to the UK economy of these missing people has been estimated at £1.5 billion.”

To this end, ETOA posited that some searching questions have been asked about the system. “Why was it that other countries in Europe were satisfied with a three page form, when the UK form was eight pages long? Were all those questions really necessary? The answer is that they were not.”

In a snide remark, ETOA said: “We are told that Schengen forms will be now acceptable with the addition of a ‘relatively short addendum form.’ It would be interesting to know if this will include such mandatory questions as: ‘Have you engaged in any other activities that might indicate that you may not be considered a person of good character?’”

The less controversial counterpart of ETOA, Tourism Society, also released a statement welcoming the announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne this morning regarding the simplification of Visa applications for Chinese visitors to the UK.

Tourism Society applauded the new application process saying it should go a long way to encouraging a large number of the one million Chinese tourists who currently visit other European destinations while avoiding Britain to now include us on their itineraries.

Tourism Society Chairman David Curtis-Brignell commented: “France alone receives in excess of 25% more Chinese visitors than we do. Today’s announcement is a significant step towards increasing the number of visitors to Britain from this important market and although it has been a long-time coming the industry must say a collective ‘thank you’ to DCMS [Department for Culture, Media & Sport], the Home Office and the Chancellor for making it a reality today.”

To the UK government, ETOA, however, has a stronger message. It said: “Much more needs to be done to rectify the debilitating competitive position that UK border security places on Britain as a destination. We still have wildly unreasonable visa regimes in force in a number of significant origin markets such as India and Russia. We have no offices capable of issuing visas in, for example, the Ukraine or Indonesia. In Europe, the UK remains the salient example of how not to handle incoming visitors. But this is undoubtedly a move in the right direction.”

Connect with the author and/or the UK groups mentioned in this story via their respective email addresses: Nelson Alcantara via [email protected], European Tour Operators Association via [email protected], and Tourism Society via [email protected]

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