Home Secretary Theresa May has promised to speed up UK visas for Chinese nationals hoping to visit or do business in the UK, following pressure from tourism businesses worried that other European countries were stealing a march.
May reportedly told a private presentation to the Cabinet last week that a "faster service" would be offered to Chinese applicants, according to the Daily Telegraph.
A "well-placed" Cabinet source told the paper: "The Home Secretary has basically backed down and agreed to sort out the problems which many people thought were threatening to hold back economic growth in this country. The message will go out in China that we want people to come and do business here."
Red tape involved with visa applications is estimated to cost the economy £1.2b a year and at the moment Britain welcomes in just 149,000 Chinese holidaymakers a year compared with 1.1 million who travel to France.
Last year, British Hospitality Association chief executive Ufi Ibrahim warned that the UK's policy on visas was putting "every obstable" in the way of Chinese tourists and supported confidential comments made by Simon Wood, the British ambassador to China that the UK had allowed a "self-defeating" caricature of "fortress UK" to take hold.