Chengdu visa-free pol­icy fu­els more tourism

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA - By FU CHAO

Chengdu, cap­i­tal of South­west China’s Sichuan prov­ince, has seen a boom in tourism since it adopted a 72-hour visa-free pol­icy last Septem­ber.

The pol­icy al­lows na­tion­als from 51 coun­tries in­clud­ing the United States, Aus­tralia, Canada and Ja­pan with valid visas and on­ward flight tick­ets to a third coun­try to spend three days in the city.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port from the city’s tourism bureau, Chengdu at­tracted 692,900 over­seas tourists dur­ing the Septem­ber-De­cem­ber pe­riod last year, up 19.55 per­cent year-on-year.

The to­tal num­ber of tourists in 2013 reached 155 mil­lion, an an­nual in­crease of 12.1 per­cent.

Tourism rev­enue last year sur­passed 133 bil­lion yuan ($21.4 bil­lion), up nearly 27 per­cent over 2012.

Af­ter the 72-hour visa-free pol­icy was put into place, the bureau set up the Chengdu Travel Al­liance that in­cludes the city’s ma­jor tourism in­sti­tu­tions and en­ter­prises such as travel agencies, ho­tels and the air­port.

The non-profit al­liance aims to of­fer the best ser­vice for vis­i­tors en­joy­ing the 72-hour visa ex­emp­tion.

“The al­liance is set to en­sure that all the en­ter­prises pro­vide high-qual­ity ser­vices at rea­son­able prices,” said He Yudong, deputy di­rec­tor of the bureau.

The al­liance also pub­lished a vis­i­tor guide of­fer­ing travel tips and in­for­ma­tion on the city.

As part of its pro­mo­tion cam­paign, the al­liance in­vited 1,000 for­eign vis­i­tors in tran­sit to travel in Chengdu for free. Each gets a copy of the brochure and a free “panda card”.

The panda smart card de­vel­oped by a lo­cal fi­nan­cial ser­vice com­pany can be used to buy tick­ets for pub­lic trans­porta­tion, movies and tourist des­ti­na­tions. Its hold­ers can also en­joy dis­counts.

Travel agencies are of­fer­ing trips to meet vis­i­tor needs and free shut­tle buses from the city’s Shuan­gliu In­ter­na­tional air­port take vis­i­tors in tran­sit to famed tourist spots.

The tourism bureau has ad­ver­tised on the BBC and CNN about Chengdu and some new travel routes.

He said that 2014 is the year of “huge sig­nif­i­cance” for the city’s tourism.

“We will try to im­prove the mar­ket and make it more ma­ture. And ev­ery part of the in­dus­try should pro­vide the best ser­vices,” he said.

Chengdu is the fourth-big­gest air hub in China. Its Shuan­gliu air­port served 71 in­ter­na­tional routes at the end of last year, rank­ing first among all air­ports in China’s cen­tral and western re­gions.

Ac­cord­ing to the city’s tourism bureau, Chengdu will open air routes to San Fran­cisco and Yan­gon later this year.

The bureau is work­ing on reg­u­la­tions to en­cour­age businesses from the travel al­liance to of­fer good ser­vices with rel­a­tively low prices for vis­i­tors in tran­sit.

A plan for more duty-free stores at the air­port and in down­town Chengdu is also on the agenda.

Home to 252 For­tune 500 com­pa­nies, the city also places im­por­tance on busi­ness trips and the expo.

“The num­ber of busi­ness­peo­ple com­ing to Chengdu to at­tend meet­ings or ex­pos is large — it is a huge mar­ket,” He said.

With the 72-hour visa-free pol­icy “more busi­ness­peo­ple want to go to Chengdu” in­stead of Bei­jing or Shang­hai said Xue Lian, project man­ager of the Amer­i­can Cham­ber of Com­merce in South­west China.

The tourism bureau has also come up with new pro­mo­tion cam­paigns in so­cial me­dia like Face­book and WeChat, China’s most pop­u­lar mes­sag­ing app.

SHE YI / FOR CHINA DAILY

Newly-born pan­das. Long famed as home to gi­ant pan­das, Chengdu tourism is now more broadly based. For­eign­ers make lanterns dec­o­rated with paper-cut pat­terns, a tra­di­tional way to cel­e­brate the Chi­nese Lan­tern Fes­ti­val.

NIU SHUPEI / FORCHINA DAILY

De­tails of the front gate of a lo­cal house.

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