Chinese tourists are an increasingly common sight in major European cites. All apart from one that is, as the UK’s restrictive visa requirements cause Chinese tourists to stick to the continent and give London a miss.

That at least is the claim of BA boss Willie Walsh who says the visa issue remains a “major problem”. He was speaking during the inaugural flight of BA’s new London-Chengdu route. According to Walsh, the route would have launched a year ago if it were not for the visa complications.

Because the UK is not part of the Schengen zone which allows free travel for tourists within 25 European countries, Chinese visitors must obtain a separate visa to visit the UK. Needless to say, the cost and additional bureaucracy may cause some Chinese tourists to leave the UK off their European grand tour.

Some 1.2m Chinese tourists visited European countries using the Schengen visa last year, compared with fewer than 200,000 to the UK.

With the rise of personal incomes and living standards, outbound tourism of China is growing rapidly. In 2012, more than 83m ventured abroad, a rise of 18% on the previous year.

While most choose to visit nearby countries in Asia, the more adventurous are heading for the USA and Europe.

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