CHINA Market & Trade Profile -

CHINA Market & Trade Profile -

3) Access Overview

Political Situation

Chinese tourists are officially allowed to travel to countries that have

been granted Approved Destination Status (ADS). Britain was granted

ADS on 21st of January 2005. It was implemented with effect from 1st

of July 2005 at which time Chinese nationals were first allowed to enter

Britain for group leisure travel (minimum group size of 5), rather than

simply for visiting friends/relatives or studying and business.

Passport and Visa Issues

Chinese visitors must apply for a 6-month multiple entry visa. The UK

visa can be difficult to get, expensive with a high refusal rate and long

decision time. Obtaining a visa is the single biggest deterrent to UK

tourism promotion in China due to complex procedures, extra time, risk

and cost. Recent qualitative research (September 2005) in China

amongst consumers, trade, government and airlines confirms this

hypothesis and indicates that ACCESSIBILITY rather than COST of visa is

the key problem.

For consumers, a rejected visa application can be worse than having not

applied in the first place as successful stamps in the passport are a door

to further international travel. As a consequence, perceived “easier”

visas may be sought first (e.g. Australia, South East Asia) before trading

up to Schengen, then UK or USA.

For trade, approval is the number one problem and the need for a

separate UK visa seriously undermines the country’s attractiveness.

Narrow travel windows (Golden Weeks) plus length of time to approve a

Schengen visa can be erratic. The addition of a UK visa can add 1-2

weeks to planning – and with demand going strong for European tours

regardless of country inclusions, the temptation is to take the path of

least resistance.

The key issues are:

UK is not a Schengen country. A separate visa to enter Britain is

required. This involves extra effort, time and cost - a significant

competitive disadvantage for Britain.

The UK visa is the most expensive visa in Europe. The new ADS visa,

single or dual entry valid for one month costs £51. Applicants have to

pay an extra £14 as a processing fee charged by the Visa Application

Centre. In comparison, a tourist visa to the 15 Schengen countries costs

less than £30.

The only advantage is that the visa application is now available in 12

cities as opposed to the 4 covered by the FCO. There is no evidence

that this will make obtaining a UK tourist visa easier or quicker. This is

mainly due to communication problems between UK visa service, VFS

and travel agents created by the new system.

Schengen countries, especially Germany, Italy, Netherlands and France,

are reviewing their ADS policy because of the increasing number of

abuses and absconders. Many previously accredited Chinese travel

agents are being suspended by the Schengen countries. The UK visa

service in China follows suit even though we are not part of the

Schengen agreement.

In some markets, one of which is China, the FCO has outsourced the

visa process to commercial companies. Whilst the obvious advantage of

this is that visas can be applied for in a wider range of cities, there is

nonetheless a more negative aspect.

Main Gateways Servicing China

Gateways / Access to Britain

In 2004 (IPS), 87% of Chinese visitors travelled to UK by air and a further

13% via the Channel Tunnel or Sea (in all likelihood as part of a wider

European tour).

All flights between China and UK fly into London Heathrow.

Air China:



British Airways:



Virgin Atlantic Airways:


China Eastern:

LHR: Flights from Beijing

and Shanghai:

British Airways

Shanghai: 5 flights per week

Beijing: 6 flights per week

Virgin Atlantic

Shanghai: 5 flights per week

China Eastern Airlines

Shanghai: 4 flights per week

Air China

Beijing: 6 flights per week


Also checked through connections from Chengdu, Shenyang, Shenzhen

and Harbin via Shanghai

Alternative carriers offer indirect services such as Cathay Pacific via

Hong Kong.


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