Visa-free pol­icy brings Chengdu busi­ness, tourism boost

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By HAO NAN hao­nan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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).

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

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.

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