Blackpool could benefit from moves to enable Chinese tourists to visit the UK more easily – with the resort’s ballroom heritage having the potential to be a major draw.
Chancellor George Osborne announced rules around the visa application process for Chinese visitors will be relaxed, in a move which will open up one of the world’s fastest growing economies to British business and tourism opportunities.
Blackpool Council announced in April it is already forging cultural links with the Chinese seaside town of Sanya.
And some experts believe the town’s two famous ballrooms in The Tower and the Winter Gardens could become must-see destinations for visitors from the Far East.
Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said: “We continue to explore links with a seaside resort in Hainan province and I was pleased to welcome a delegation from Sanya to Blackpool in the summer. There is certainly huge potential in terms of tourism, culture, education and business opportunities, and I welcome any proposal which makes it easier for Chinese citizens to visit the UK.
“We are exploring ways in which we can work with Sanya without spending taxpayers’ money doing so and these negotiations continue.”
Fylde councillor Howard Henshaw, who lived in the Far East for 20 years including a spell in Hong Kong, said: “I think the potential is fantastic just because of the size of the population in China and its economy is growing by about eight or nine per cent a year.
“The Chinese would love the Pleasure Beach and many of the Chinese people I have spoken to have heard of the Tower Ballroom because there is tremendous interest in ballroom dancing in South East Asia.”
Peter Lui, chief executive of the Blackpool Chinese Community Association, said: “Relaxing the visa system will be very positive, especially for Blackpool, and I hopefully we would see a big influx of tourists here. Blackpool is quite well known in China for its ballroom dancing and every year we are seeing more delegates from China travelling to Blackpool to join in the ballroom dancing events.
“If Blackpool and Sanya were to become twin cities, I think people from Sanya would definitely want to visit Blackpool.”
The changes mean for the first time Chinese applicants will be able to submit just one form covering them for both Britain and the EU Schengen agreement countries through selected travel agents.
Visit hailed as new era in British-Chinese relations
Chancellor George Osborne led a business delegation to China where he announced the relaxation of visa restrictions.
Arriving at the weekend in the Chinese capital Beijing, Mr Osborne announced a relaxation of the rules for Chinese nationals amid complaints the current regime is a deterrent to more high-spending visitors coming to the UK.
He also unveiled an £800 million plan for Chinese investment in Manchester Airport, creating 16,000 new jobs in what he said would be one of the biggest developments in the UK since the London Olympics. The visit has been hailed as a new era in relations with China. Ministers predict a surge of investment from the Asian economy to build a new generation of nuclear power stations for the UK.