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UK plans to double Chinese tourist number
British tourism authority is negotiating agreements with Chinese government and plans to simplify visa application process to double the annual number of Chinese visitors to Britain within two years.

Tom Wright, chief executive of the British Tourist Authority VisitBritain, says about 100,000 Chinese go to Britain every year on business or education, among which 25,000 people are from Shanghai.

His organization is negotiating bilateral accords with the China National Tourism Administration to get approved destination status.

Britain will simplify visa processing allowing up to 95 percent of applicants to get visas within 24 hours, Wright says.

The British tourism industry is also developing attractions for Chinese tourists.

"Britain has a range of products that appeal to Chinese tourists, the beautiful countryside and coastline steeped in cultural heritage and sport events," Wright says.

There will be themed tours such as Harry Potter and Shakespeare. They've also trained certified mandarin-speaking guides for Chinese visitors.

In April, VisitBritain will launch its Website in traditional and simplified Chinese to provide customized information.

The new aviation agreement between Britain and China allows greater access. Shanghai Eastern Airlines has three flights a week to Britain and Virgin Atlantic Airlines has four. Wright says weekly flights to Shanghai will increase to 31 in 2006.

On average, Chinese visitors stay about 11 days and spend 1,300 pounds (US$2,417) on each visit. There are 60,000 Chinese people studying in the United Kingdom, who in together spend 1.5 billion pounds annually.

The China National Tourism Administration and the European Union signed an agreement last week which will facilitate more Chinese group tours to European countries.

Chinese people will be able to travel to 12 countries of the 15 EU members through selected travel agencies. Ireland, Denmark and Britain are not included the this agreement.

"The most sticky point for negotiation is the repatriation problem and we're working out a formula to forestall illegal Chinese immigration," says Roger Johnson, VisitBritain's overseas operations director.

Source: Shanghai Daily
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