BHA chair Nick Varney laments visa policy for Chinese tourists | Leisure Opportunities
Leisure Opportunities

Leisure Opportunities

Job Search
see all jobs
Job opportunities
The Dungeons
San Francisco, CA, United States
Bracknell Leisure Centre
£15.46 weekdays & £18.68 weekends pa
Bracknell, United Kingdom
Sandown Sports Club
£18,785 per annum
The Gym Group
100% of your PT earnings
Nationwide, United Kingdom
National Trust
£30,507 pa
Shrewsbury, United Kingdom

BHA chair Nick Varney laments visa policy for Chinese tourists

Job opportunities
Hull Culture and Leisure
30,785 - £33,437
location: Hull, United Kingdom
City University of London
£22,214 - £24,285 per annum
location: London, United Kingdom
Chesterton Sports Centre
£16,123 - £16,781 per annum, pro rata
location: Cambridge, United Kingdom
more jobs

British efforts to court Chinese tourism through a major Shanghai business festival launched by Prince William are missing the point in terms of what needs to be done to attract Chinese visitors.

That is the view of new BHA chair Nick Varney, who said that posters in China promoting British destinations are irrelevant when the UK’s visa policy makes it so hard for Chinese visitors to get there.

The GREAT Festival of Creativity in Shanghai has been running this week, a partnership between the UK government and private sector to boost British penetration in fast-growing Chinese markets. Prince William opened the event on Monday evening (2 March), while brands such as British Airways, Jaguar Land Rover, PwC and BBC Worldwide are sponsors. Tourism is high on the agenda, with the VisitBritain-led GREAT Britain marketing campaign featuring prominently in a bid to lure visitors from the rapidly expanding Chinese outbound tourism market.

However, Varney, who is also the CEO of attractions giant Merlin Entertainments, believes the marketing campaign is ultimately futile due to the current policy on visas for Chinese visitors.

“I actually think it’s not a tourism campaign. It’s a corporate Britain branding campaign, as far as I can see,” said Varney, quoted in the Financial Times.

He added that branding Britain may be useful for attracting inward investment, “but if you are saying that a poster at Shanghai Airport saying ‘Britain is Great’ is going to get Chinese people to come to the UK for their holiday when actually the main barrier... is an overly expensive and overly complicated and onerous visa application process, then you’re not running an integrated tourism strategy.”

Inbound visitor numbers to Britain from overseas have consistently risen in recent years and hit new highs in 2014.

But despite the positive figures, there was one area for concern. Visits from China – a market that VisitBritain has been targeting with a number of tourism initiatives – fell 7 per cent year-on-year, according to International Passenger Survey statistics.

One well-placed industry observer told Leisure Opportunities that the drop, coming at a time when the Chinese outbound tourism market continues to grow, suggests the government’s visa policy is in need of a revamp.

In response to Varney’s comments, a government spokesperson pointed to the overall tourism figures as evidence that the UK’s tourism strategy is on track. They added that it is “nonsense” to suggest the strategy isn’t working, and cited chancellor George Osborne’s recent Chinese visa refund announcement as evidence of efforts to boost numbers.

Tourism is expected to be a key battleground in the forthcoming general election, which takes place on 7 May 2015. Some of the key issues tourism businesses would like to see addressed in the party manifestos include support measures for seaside and rural tourism businesses, plans for increasing the UK’s airport capacity, considerations over the Cut Tourism VAT Campaign and whether there will be any further reforms to the Air Passenger Duty (APD).

Sign up for FREE ezines & magazines
British efforts to court Chinese tourism through a major Shanghai business festival launched by Prince William are missing the point in terms of what needs to be done to attract Chinese visitors.
BHA chair Nick Varney believes the marketing campaign in China is ultimately futile due to the current policy on visas for Chinese visitors


Construction is underway on two new live music venues and a leisure-filled “urban gallery” in central London, designed by British architects Orms. The St Giles ... Read more
The UK attracted a record number of overseas visitors during June – thanks largely to the collapse in the value of the pound since the ... Read more
Gym and health club operators need to engage with their members and focus on customer service to help them retain numbers. In the latest issue ... Read more
European low-cost gym chain Basic-Fit is on target to open 100 clubs this year after it reported revenue growth of 26 per cent in the ... Read more
Culture and tech projects in the North of England will soon be able to bid for a slice from a £15m (US$19.3m, €16.5m) funding pie, ... Read more
Fitness franchise énergie Group has opened thé Yard - a new signature training concept that will be rolled out at its énergie and Fit4less clubs ... Read more
Spirit Fitness UK
Spirit Fitness UK
Swiss artist Felice Varini and the Chilean architecture practice Pezo von Ellrichshausen have been commissioned to design an ambitious temporary outdoor structure in the historic ... Read more
Tech startup Neurable has taken virtual reality to the next level, creating computer interfaces for the brain to allow users to control the technology using ... Read more
The historic Grayshott Spa in Surrey has been acquired by Austria-based health and medical resort specialists the Lanserhof Group. The family-run Lanserhof, which owns spas ... Read more
A curatorial development fund worth £500,000 (US$645,000, €550,000) has been created to help already established curators of museums and galleries in the UK learn new ... Read more
The All England Club is pushing forward with its plans to cover the No. 1 Court at Wimbledon. The new, retractable roof will form part ... Read more
One of the biggest misconceptions made in the physical activity sector is that retired people cannot train hard. Writing in the latest issue of Health ... Read more
Active IQ
Active IQ
One of the UK's biggest destination spas, the Lifehouse Spa and Hotel in the village of Thorpe le Soken, Essex, has had expansion plans scuppered ... Read more
Table Tennis England’s public funding has been reinstated after the national governing body finally agreed to a package of reforms compliant with the government’s Code ... Read more
An increasing number of local authority-owned leisure centres are being upgraded with spa facilities, as operators embrace the emerging trend to provide members with wellness. ... Read more
1 - 15 of 36,649