CHINESE tourists who want to combine a holiday to the UK and continental European countries can now apply for both Belgium – a Schengen country – and UK visas in a single application.
Starting July 1, Chinese nationals who apply for a visa to the UK at the Chinese Visa Application Service Centre can also request a visa to Belgium, which gives them access to Schengen countries.
Belgium visas were only available through the Belgium embassy before hand and Chinese travellers intending to include the UK in their itinerary had to apply for both visas separately.
Travel trade members that TTG Asia e-Daily spoke to have welcomed the move, which makes multi-destination itineraries for the Chinese traveller less of a hassle.
Shanghai-based Hongkong Four Seas Travel - TSI, general manager for Greater China (business travel), Jonathan Kao said: “With the new policy, travellers can now easily plan for a ‘whole’ Europe trip, which means that they will most likely be travelling for long periods.
“The cheap euro certainly helps too and we are already seeing a lot of travellers who would’ve otherwise gone to Hong Kong now go directly to Europe to shop.”
He added that the new arrangement helps business travellers save time planning their trips as previously travellers could not apply for both visas at the same time.
The change in visa processes is also timely, as CITS Shenzhen’s outbound travel manager, Ding Wei, reported that travel demand to the UK has been so strong that most of the agency’s tours have been booked up this summer.
Ding said: “This visa initiative will drive more traffic for sure and we expect 50 per cent growth in 2015. Group tours have dominated outbound traffic but we are starting to see more FITs. We plan to create more new tour routes and FIT packages to Europe.”