Visa-free policy brings Chengdu business, tourism boost
Making national headlines several times, Chengdu’s 72-hour visa-free policy has attracted wide attention from both Chinese and foreign experts and businessmen since it took effect on Sept 1 last year.
The program permits citizens from 51 countries and regions including the United States, Australia, Canada and Japan who have valid visas and flight tickets to a third country to spend three days in the city.
The capital of Sichuan province is the first city in the western region of China to offer foreign tourists a three-day visa and the fourth nationwide to adopt the policy following Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou.
Li Zhiyong, deputy dean of the tourism institute at Sichuan University, said the move “contributes to a large increase in the number of overseas tourists and raises the city’s level of internationalization”.
“The policy will also bring direct economic revenue,” Li said.
“Chengdu has many cultural legacies and is also a paradise for panda lovers with the world’s largest breeding and research center. Three days are long enough for foreign visitors to visit those iconic tourist spots,” he noted.
The city is home to the remains of the Jinsha civilization that dates back more than 3,000 years as well as the Qingcheng Mountains and the Dujiangyan irrigation system.
Qingcheng has long been recognized as the birthplace of Taoism, China’s ancient indigenous religion, while Dujiangyan is considered to be the oldest functioning water-control project in the world.
Chengdu ranked third in tourist facilities, management and services among 60 Chinese cities in a customer satisfaction survey released last year.
But, Li added that efforts are still needed to develop more tourism products, improve English services and provide accurate translation of traffic signs and scenic billboards.
Zhao Yun, chairwoman of British Chamber of Commerce Southwest China, told China Daily that his colleagues found the policy very convenient.
“A British client once flew here and stayed for just one day to check her ordered goods,” she said.
Zhao was born in Shanxi province, but she has lived in Chengdu for more than 10 years.
“My life was like a running race moving from place to place. I also lived in Beijing and Shanghai before,” she said. “But Chengdu is a place that you never want to leave once settling down. It is now my second hometown,” she said.
If the environment is further improved, the city will attract more people to visit and live, with the 72-hour visa-free policy and compelling conditions in transportation, culture, climate and cuisine, he said.
Foreigners also gave positive feedback on the policy.
A spokesman from Dell Inc said the company has a global hub of operation in Chengdu, so the threeday visa “has an immediate and positive influence on the company’s business development”.
Rudy Buttignol, president of the public broadcasting company in British Columbia, Canada, said his work requires frequent travel to Chengdu and the policy “makes the trips easier”.
Data from the city’s public security bureau shows some 100 foreign visitors enjoyed the 72-hour policy by the end of March, most of them from the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany.
Chengdu also reported robust growth in its overall tourist industry last year. Official statistics show that it received some 150 million tourists last year, an increase of 28 percent from 2012. Around 1.7 million came from abroad, an increase of 12 percent. Total revenue from tourism surpassed 133 billion yuan ($21.7billion).
Pingle ancient town is a popular rural attraction in Chengdu.
Sunbird logo derived from a 3,000-year-old disc made by the Jinsha civilization found in the city’s western suburbs. It has been hailed as one of the major archeological discoveries in China.