“Currently we only have 0.5% of the market share of Chinese tourists. If we could increase that to just 2.5% this could add over half a billion pounds of spending to our economy and this could mean as many as 10,000 new jobs.”
I had lunch the other day with a Chinaman who was incongruously named Boris. He lives in Shanghai but spends a lot of his time in Europe. Boris makes his living supplying luxury goods to wealthy Chinese and business is very brisk. Although we met in London he explained that very few Chinese bother to come to the UK because it’s a tremendous faff trying to get here. The problem is the difficulty in getting a British visa. To get a British visa the Chinese have to fill in a ten page form and personally attend an application centre. When Boris visits Europe he usually travels to Paris from which he can go to Turin and Barcelona on the same visa. France, Italy, Spain and 22 other European countries have all signed up to the Schengen agreement under which one visa covers all 25 countries.
David Cameron has refused to sign the Schengen agreement. The consequence of this block-headed policy is that last year we had only 110,000 Chinese visitors compared to 2m to the Schengen countries. Hotels, restaurants and shops in Paris, Barcelona and Turin are laughing heartily at our misfortune and if David Cameron was really sincere in creating the 10,000 jobs and earning the half a billion pounds of which he speaks, the solution couldn’t be simpler.