WORLD ROUTES: Breaking Down the Barriers

The UK is considering a parallel visa processing system along with Schengen states for Chinese tourists, the head of VisitBritain said during a session at the World Routes Strategy Summit in las Vegas.  Christopher Rodrigues, VisitBritain chairman, said the UK government was looking at the scheme, which is aimed at reducing visa wait times and encouraging more Chinese tourists to visit the UK.

Rodrigues added, however, that the UK would not join the Schengen scheme, as the government would not put security screening in the hands of other European states.  “It takes between six to nine days on average to process both the UK and Schengen visa, but the advice is to allow for a month for both. Visitors can’t wait that long for both, so parallel processing might be an option,” he said.

Panellists from the US added that finding ways to bring more countries into the US visa waiver scheme was “hugely important to grow visitation”, according to Cathy Tull, senior vice president marketing Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.  “Should the visa waiver come about in Brazil tourism would explode in Las Vegas,” she said.  Tull cited the Copa Airlines flight, which is proving highly popular with Brazilian visitors.

Roger Dow, president and CEO of the US Travel Association said South Korean arrivals to the US grew by 47 per cent after it was added to the visa waiver scheme.  He said other destinations were being considered for entrance into the scheme, including Brazil, Israel and Poland.  Allegiant Air’s Jude Bricker, senior vice president planning, said getting preclearance expanded to Mexico and eased visa regimes to the US would be welcomed by the low-cost carrier.

Meanwhile, Dow said that after visas, the next discussion that the industry must champion in the USA is getting more border and customs officers at entry points.  This is particularly important with Brand USA’s mandate to increase visitor numbers to the US to 100 million.  Tull added that improving connectivity within the USA was also important, as the destination aims to grow its international visitation.