72-hour visa-free policy well received by foreign travelers
International travelers and businessmen applauded Chengdu’s 72-hour visa-free policy, which started in September 2013.
The policy allows transit passengers, who have a third country visa and valid air ticket, to stay visa-free in Chengdu, in Sichuan province, for up to 72 hours.
“My colleagues and I travel to Chengdu very frequently, so this policy definitely makes our lives a lot easier,” said Rudy Buttignol, president and CEO of British Columbia’s Knowledge Network Co.
Buttignol is not the only one who has found the policy convenient.
In 2013, a total of 1.76 million international travelers visited Chengdu, an increase of 12.09 percent compared with the previous year.
Local tourism revenue reached 133 billion yuan ($22 billion) in 2013, an increase of 26.24 percent from 2012.
The policy is also a bonus for the business industry as more businessmen are willing to travel to the city, said Chen Bin, deputy director at the Chengdu Investment Promotion Commission.
According to official data, Chengdu attracted 271.8 billion yuan in investment last year .With 22 Fortune 500 enterprises starting business in the city in 2013, Chengdu is now home to 252 such companies.
The policy boosts local tourism and business due to its convenience for foreign travelers, an official said.
Modani, an Italian architect, was the first person to take advantage of the policy.
The CEO of an architectural design firm visited four local companies within three days in Chengdu.
After the trip he cooperated with one of the companies to set up his first architectural firm in the city.
“The new visa policy becomes one of our advantages in attracting foreign investment,” Chen said.
Xue Lian, the project manager of the American Chamber of Commerce in Southwest China, said more business delegations would now consider stopping in Chengdu instead of going straight to the “traditional destinations such as Beijing and Shanghai.”
The policy also benefits overseas Chinese like Wen Wei and his daughter, who want to visit their hometown more frequently.
Wen lives in Australia with his family and changed a trip to Japan to visit Chengdu instead after he noticed the new policy.
“I can come home more often now to meet with my family members and take a walk in those famous scenic sites,” Wen said.
Chengdu’s government held a series of activities to promote the policy around the world.
In December 2013, Chengdu Tourism Administration, Chengdu Media Group and Chengdu Daily gave 1,000 foreigners a tour of the city.
The visitors were from some of the 51 countries and regions included in the visa-free policy, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Italy, South Korea, Singapore, France, and Germany.
The tourists visited attractions like temples, farms and museums and tasted local foods.
“This is such a fantastic experience for me and I know more about the city and its culture now,” said Mia, a college student from the United States.
“Next time when my friends ask me, I will tell them Chengdu has a lot more to explore besides pandas,” she added.
Chengdu is the fourth mainland city to implement the policy, following Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
An official of the Chengdu Tourism Administration said with more and more international travelers expected to visit in the future, the city is looking to improve tourism facilities and services.
“Promotion events are part of the marketing strategy and we hope people from other countries and regions realize how beautiful and charming Chengdu is,” he said.
Handicraft masters are busy with embroidery. The craft, also known as “nuhong”, means women’s needlework and handicrafts, and was popular hundreds of years ago.
Kuan Alley first built in the Qing Dynasty is a popular tourist attraction.
Chengdu is the home of the giant panda.
Qingcheng Mountains, birthplace of Taoism.