The Government is putting every obstacle in the way of encouraging Chinese tourists to come to the UK, according to Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association (BHA).
Ibrahim said she supported the comments made by Simon Wood, the British ambassador to China, regarding visa controls in the UK. In a confidential letter, Wood said that the British government had allowed a "completely self-defeating" caricature of "fortress UK" to take hold, which increased the chances of the Chinese taking their "tourist dollars" elsewhere.
Ibrahim said that the British hospitality and tourism industry had been expressing the same concerns at the highest levels for many years, with little result.
"Only last week, at a Hospitality and Tourism Summit held in London, the minister counsellor at the Chinese Embassy in London emphasised the extraordinary potential of the Chinese market to Britain's tourism industry - and thus, to the country's economic future," Ibrahim said.
"But the Government is putting every obstacle in the way of encouraging the Chinese market, which has the potential of creating thousands of jobs."
Ibrahim said that although there had been some easing in the control procedures for obtaining a tourist visa, with information leaflets now being printed in a number of different languages, visa forms were still in English and biometric information was still required, with a personal visit to a visa centre.
"Visas are also expensive to acquire because visitors to Europe need a UK visa in addition to a visa required by countries conforming to the Schengen Agreement - thus doubling the cost," she added.
Ibrahim said that the US government's new national tourism and travel policy recognised that visa policy reform was key to the future prosperity of the industry - and the country as a whole.
"US government departments have been tasked with working together to deliver faster visa processing times and have set a goal of attracting 100 million visitors by 2021, which will bring $250b (£160b) in visitor spending each year," she said.
"Without compromising security, this is a move that must be followed by the British government if we are to compete on the world stage.
"The UK spends many millions of pounds encouraging inbound tourism, yet a similar amount of money is spent discouraging those same visitors based in potentially the richest source countries. If ever there was a case for joined-up government, this is it."
By Janet Harmer
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