Anthony Rippingale, McArthurGlen's Head of Tourism, responded to the welcomed announcement: "With Chinese tourists at our six Designer Outlets across the UK spending eight times more than the average shopper, the new visa changes are exceedingly good news for us as well as for the UK retail and tourism sectors as a whole. We look forward to seeing many more Chinese tourists at our centres."
The announcement from the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer on a visit to China came the Monday after the close of Golden Week, one of the busiest times in the Chinese shopping calendar. The new process means that selected Chinese travel agents will be able to apply for UK visas by submitting just the EU's Schengen visa form - previously two, separate visas were needed.
There will also be a new 24-hour 'super-priority' visa service, available from next summer, and the government is also looking to expand the VIP mobile visa service, currently operating in Beijing and Shanghai, to the rest of the country.
"We expect all our UK centres to see a ripple effect as the country prepares itself to welcome more Chinese tourists, who are well-known for their love fashion, and their love of luxury and designer brands," says Anthony.
Fashion shopping accounts for nearly two thirds of retail spend by Chinese tourists visiting Europe, according to a survey carried out by McArthurGlen in May 2013, with around a third of Chinese tourists visiting Europe over the 12 months prior to the survey having visited a designer outlet village.
In 2012, spending by Chinese shoppers doubled at McArthurGlen's portfolio of Designer Outlets in eight countries across Europe, including the UK; with the figure for the UK alone only 12 per cent. "We believe we can now grow this figure considerably," continues Anthony, "given that we know that we have a very appealing offer for the Chinese tourist: some of the leading names in luxury and designer fashion, with year round savings of up to 60%, and in an exciting, premium shopping environment."
The UK China Visa Alliance, which also includes among its founding members New West End Company, London First, Global Blue and Walpole British Luxury, commented on Monday's announcement: "The UK China Visa Alliance has been greatly encouraged by the customer-focused approach taken by UK Visas & Immigration since it was spun out of the UK Border Agency earlier this year. In the long term we would like to see a single application process extended to independent travellers, which is a growing sector of the Chinese traveller market, but this is a very welcome first step."
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