Press Release: Calls for a new India visitor visa to boost UK tourism

A new report published by the Royal Commonwealth Society in partnership with the AOA and other leading aviation, tourism and industry groups, including the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), recommends that India is added to the UK’s latest £87 two-year visitor visa scheme. The reform would help reverse the UK’s falling market share of global Indian tourists, which has halved over the last decade. The estimated cost of this trend to the UK economy is almost £500m per year and over 8,000 jobs. France has now leapfrogged the UK as India’s most visited European nation, attracting 500,000 visitors from the subcontinent in 2015.

Nigel Huddleston, the Member of Parliament for Mid Worcestershire said: “I believe that the changes advocated in this report would help re-establish the UK as the leading destination for Indian visitors by making a clear statement that we are open for business.”

In October 2015, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced a pilot scheme for a two-year UK-China visitor visa costing £87. The report recommends that Indian nationals have the same opportunity. At present Indian visitors continue to pay a hefty £330 for a two-year visa, or £87 for six-months.

UK-Indian relations are strong. They share deep economic and cultural ties – most notably through the Indian diaspora of 1.4 million. Indian business visitors also spent £201m in 2015; almost three times the average spend on business trips to the UK. However with the number of Indian tourists growing 10% year-on-year the UK should be capitalising on its immense potential for attracting visitors.

Kurt Janson, Director of Tourism Alliance said: “The considerable rise in Indians travelling globally over the past decade has not been enjoyed by the UK until now. The proposed change to the current visitor visa would offer an attractive incentive to Indian tourists and ensure that the UK takes full advantage of the enormous potential for growth in the Indian tourist market.”

Next year offers the most opportune time to introduce this change with 2017 designated the UK-India Year of Culture, marking 70 years of Indian Independence. Throughout 2017 both nations will see a strong collaboration in business, art, music, design and much more. Having a cheaper and extended UK visitor visa will help enhance these endeavours.

Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Airport Operators Association said: “UK airports have a number of excellent connections to India, which benefit the UK economy as a whole and regional economies in particular. A better visa deal for Indian business and leisure visitors would support further growth to an increased number of destinations and UK airports stand ready to take advantage of that opportunity.”

The report’s author, Tim Hewish, Director of Policy and Research at the Royal Commonwealth Society said: “We hope that the government will consider the very clear benefits of our recommendation, enhancing the already close affinity between two great Commonwealth nations.”

Download the full report ‘A Passage from India – Improving UK visitor visas for Indian nationals’: