Foreigners who want to know more about Chengdu’s 72-hour visa-free policy can search famous social network such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for pictures and text.
The use of social networking sites is part of the online marketing plan by Chengdu Culture & Tourism Development Group to publicize the policy worldwide, especially in the United States and the Europe.
The visa policy, which took effect last September, allows citizens from 51 countries in Asia, Europe, the Americas and Oceania to spend three days in Chengdu if they have valid visas and onward flight tickets.
The capital of Sichuan province is the first city in the western region of China to offer foreign tourists a three-day v isa and the fourth nationwide to adopt the policy following Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. In addition to advertising on internationally influential Web portals, the company also set up a Chengdu page with the theme “72 Challenge — Come to Chengdu” on Tripadvisor, the world’s largest website providing tourism reviews and advice.
As well “we also shot three interesting and creative documentaries to build the brand and uploaded them on You- Tube”, said Wang Xin, deputy director of Chengdu Bureau of Expositions.
The first video covering basic information and tips about the policy alone has had more than 100,000 hits from European and US users.
The second video called “Challenge Chengdu” shows expats invited to iconic local attractions such as giant pandas, mahjong, spicy hotpot and the skills of changing faces in Sichuan opera.
The third video called “Amazing Chengdu” provides several travel plans and advice for tourists enjoying the 72-hour policy.
The company also invited some tourism industry opinion leaders from YouTube to experience the policy and have a three-day travel in the city. Their videos, pictures and articles can be found in Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
To deal with the potential increase in the number of foreign tourists, the company made efforts to add more facilities and enhance Englishlanguage training for service people.
Also, the policy will bring more opportunities to the exhibition industry in the southwestern metropolis, said a local official.
“It will be important for Chengdu to introduce more globally famous and professional exhibitions in the future,” said Wang Xin, deputy director of Chengdu Bureau of Expositions.
“It will also help the historical city enhance the level of internationalization, benefit foreigners who frequently participate in multinational business activities and of course facilitate trips of overseas exhibitors,” he said.
Wang told China Daily that Herbert Marner, chief financial officer of Germany’s Koelnmesse Co, enjoyed the 72-hour policy last month.
Chengdu hosted an international hardware show in April that was jointly organized by Koelnmesse and China National Hardware Association.
“Marner planned to go to Singapore for a conference, but he also wanted to have a look at the opening ceremony of the show,” Wang said. “Marner did not have a visa for China at that time, so he would not have been able to show up without the policy.”
Marner stayed for a day in Chengdu and then followed his original plan to Singapore.
“We have not made special plans for the policy, but will consider it an important highlight to attract overseas investments and search for partners,” Wang said.
This year, the bureau plans to establish cooperative relationships with the UK’s Montgomery Co, China (Shanghai) International Exhibitions and UBM Asia.
In 2013, Chengdu held 503 major events including 105 international conventions and 53 international exhibitions.
Together they generated direct income of some 6 billion yuan ($964 million), up 20 percent over the 2012.
Statistics from the bureau show that at least 450 large events will be staged in the city this year and will generate 6.5 billion yuan in direct income and indirect revenue of 54 billion yuan.
Spouses of delegates to the 2013 Chengdu Fortune Global Forum visit Jinli ancient street. The forum in May was the most important among the 105 international conventions held in the city last year.
Chinese and foreign visitors at last year’s West China Expo in Chengdu. The city hosted 53 international shows in 2013.