Visitors to UK be made more welcome

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The Independent Online

The Government is considering wholesale changes to the tourist visa regime to capitalise on the Olympics effect which has sparked interest in visiting Britain.

Proposals are being looked at to simplify and shorten visa applications to bring Britain more closely into line with European countries that are part of the Schengen Agreement, which lets visitors roam across borders.

Tourism chiefs complain that more must be done to attract high-spending Chinese and Russian visitors. At the moment, Germany welcomes nine times as many Chinese visitors as Britain, while France has six times. Hotels complain that some tour operators have dropped Britain from their European itineraries because of the extra accreditation needed to come here.

Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary (left), is expected to address the issue in a speech on tourism at Tate Modern, in London, on Tuesday.

Ideas on the table include sharing application centres with other European countries, translating forms into relevant languages and introducing a risk-based approach to speed up applications from some countries.