The U.K. will extend multiple-entry visas for Chinese visitors to two years from six months as it seeks to build on a boom in free-spending tourists from the people’s republic.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced the move on Wednesday during a state visit to the U.K. by President Xi Jinping and said he plans to extend the visas to 10 years to encourage Chinese visitors to return.

“China is becoming one of our fastest-growing tourism markets so making it easier and more convenient for Chinese visitors to come to the U.K. is extremely important,” Cameron said in an e-mailed statement. The change “is great news for our tourism industry and great news for the British economy enabling us to maximize Chinese spending power even further,” he said.

The number of visas issued to Chinese visitors increased to 336,000 in 2014 from 115,000 in 2009, with tourists spending an average of 2,688 pounds ($4,150) each time they visit, Cameron’s office said in a briefing note accompanying the announcement. Visitors from China contribute about 500 million pounds to the 26 billion-pound a year U.K. inbound tourism industry and the extension, which comes into effect in January, will increase their opportunities to spend, Cameron’s office said.

Britain will also extend the reach of its mobile fingerprinting service in China to 50 cities from nine and is in talks with the Chinese government to open more visa application centers.

Most other European Union countries offer 90-day visas to Chinese visitors and the U.K. hopes its offer will attract tourists who would otherwise travel elsewhere in Europe, Cameron’s office said.

This article was written by Thomas Penny from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Photo Credit: Clerk and shoppers at London's Harrod's department store. Herry Lawford /