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InterContinental boss criticises UK government for dragging its feet on foreign visas

06 March 2013 by
InterContinental boss criticises UK government for dragging its feet on foreign visas

Richard Solomons, chief executive of InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), has said that he is disappointed at the UK's slow progress in simplifying visa arrangements for foreign visitors.

"We spend time talking to the UK government," he told the International Hotel investment Forum in Berlin. "They listen, but I'm not sure they are hearing."

Solomons (pictured) was speaking on a panel alongside fellow chief executives of some of the world's largest hotel companies: Chis Nassetta of Hilton Worldwide, Arne Sorenson of Marriott International and Frits van Paasschen of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. Together, the four men are responsible for one-fifth of the world's hotels, nearly 2.5 million bedrooms, more than 50 brands and some one million employees.

In contrast to the UK, the panel praised the USA for taking steps to make it easier for travellers to cross its borders. "Obama has recognised that tourism is an easy means of creating economic growth and has made some powerful steps to help visitors to go to the USA," Sorenson said. "At one time it took a Chinese traveller 90 minutes to wait for a visa; now it takes just five minutes. The system is not yet automated and an interview is still required, but great improvements have been made."

Nassetta said: "The US government is now focused on using tourism to drive incremental growth and create tens of millions of jobs."

Meanwhile, Solomns said that he was concerned that travellers from emerging countries, such as China and India, would get used to going to other countries and give the UK a miss. "London is high up as a destination of choice, but because of the difficulties of travelling to the UK, countries like Germany are getting five to six times the number of visitors from China."

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