UK visa could be a ‘deal-breaker’ for Chinese, finds

Ease of visa application a top consideration for one in five Chinese travellers

The UK’s complex visa application system could be deterring thousands of Chinese visitors, according to the second annual Chinese International Travel Monitor (CITM), released today. In a study of 3,000 Chinese residents, 19% said that the ease of applying for a visa is the top priority when planning a trip abroad.

The finding raises concerns that the UK could lose out to France and other parts of Europe that have signed the Schengen agreement. A separate visa is required to enter the UK whereas a single visa gives Chinese visitors entry to all 26 counties in the Schengen area.

To better compete with Schengen area countries, the Home Office announced plans in May to explore how the UK’s visa system could be made easier for visitors travelling in groups. While the move is a step in the right direction, a focus on group travel could mean that the UK may miss out on the growing number of independent Chinese travellers.

Two-thirds (62%) of Chinese residents now book holidays independently. This shift is being led by a rising number of affluent, younger travellers, who are more confident booking travel online or by themselves. Almost three-quarters (73%) of travellers aged under 35 now book holidays abroad independently, compared to just over half (57%) of visitors aged over 35.  

When booking trips away, found that younger visitors are looking for different things to older travellers. Younger travellers are more likely to book at independent hotels or those that don’t cater specifically for Chinese visitors than those aged over 35.

Europe remains the top destination of choice for Chinese travellers of all ages, with 72% interested in visiting the region in the next year. France is the top European destination – and second most popular overall – whereas the UK is second in Europe and ninth globally. A third (33%) of Chinese travellers surveyed want to visit France in the next 12 months, while just one in five (19%) would like to travel to the UK.

As the world’s biggest spender on travel abroad*, the Chinese are becoming a top target worldwide, with many countries launching campaigns to attract more visitors from China. By 2015, 100 million Chinese citizens are predicted to travel abroad each year**.

“The UK cannot afford to be turning visitors away,” said Nigel Pocklington at the brand. “In an increasingly competitive market, we should be doing all that we can to encourage more visitors from China to spend their holidays in the UK. The government’s plan to streamline visa applications for group travellers is very welcome news, but we must not forget about the increasing numbers who prefer to travel independently. With approximately a fifth of travellers citing ease of visa application as a key consideration, the UK’s current system could be a ‘deal-breaker’ for some visitors if changes are not made. Aside from benefiting the UK’s tourism industry, relaxing restrictions on visas could provide a big boost for retailers and the wider economy.”


*United Nations World Travel Organisation World Tourism Barometer, April 2013, retrieved 16 July 2013,

** United Nations World Travel Organisation, Chinese Outbound Travel Market Update, retrieved 15 August 2013, 


About the research

The Chinese International Travel Monitor (CITM) collects data directly from both Chinese international travellers and international hoteliers.

The traveller’s survey was commissioned in May 2013 through TNS amongst a representative sample of 3,000 Chinese residents in mainland China who had paid for accommodation on an international trip at least once in the past five years. The questionnaire covered topics including but not limited to travel behaviour, booking methods and preferences for accommodation. carried out a global survey of more than 1,500 hotel partners during May/June 2013. Responses were received from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, the UK and the USA.