China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - PHOTO BY LU HANXIN / XIN­HUA

Joan Hep­burn and her hus­band Brian, from New Zealand, be­come the first for­eign­ers land­ing at Guangzhou Baiyun In­ter­na­tional Air­port to ben­e­fit from the city’s 72-hour visa-free pol­icy on Thurs­day. The Guang­dong provin­cial cap­i­tal has joined Bei­jing and Shang­hai in of­fer­ing three-day visa-free stays to tran­sit pas­sen­gers.

When Brian Hep­burn and his wife, Joan, stepped into the ar­rival hall of Guangzhou Baiyun In­ter­na­tional Air­port at about 6:20 am on Thurs­day, they were im­me­di­ately in the me­dia spot­light.

Brian Hep­burn, 85, from New Zealand, said he was sur­prised and glad to learn he had be­come the first for­eign pas­sen­ger to visit Guangzhou, the cap­i­tal of Guang­dong prov­ince, on a free- visa tran­sit pol­icy that took ef­fect on Thurs­day.

Hep­burn told re­porters who had waited at the air­port that the tran­sit pol­icy was con­ve­nient, as he needed only two to three min­utes to com­plete the pa­per­work.

The Hep­burns will stay in Guangzhou for three days be­fore fly­ing to Lon­don, Hep­burn said be­fore he headed to his ho­tel.

Hep­burn said he and his wife plan to visit Guangzhou’s Chen Clan Acad­emy and Sun Yat-sen Me­mo­rial Hall, cruise the Pearl River at night and ex­pe­ri­ence lo­cal cus­toms and prac­tices.

The visit is Hep­burn’s first to the city. He vis­ited Shang­hai five years ago.

Cui Fox­iao, a pub­lic­ity of­fi­cial from China South­ern Air­lines, said, “By Thurs­day noon alone, at least four for­eign pas­sen­gers have ar­rived in Guangzhou Baiyun In­ter­na­tional Air­port for free-visa tran­sit vis­its.”

An­other two for­eign pas­sen­gers came from the Nether­lands, Cui said.

Zhang Zi­fang, Party chief of China South­ern Air­lines, said the free-visa pol­icy will cer­tainly help the air­port and air­lines at­tract more pas­sen­gers.

“China South­ern Air­lines han­dled 420,000 tran­sit pas­sen­gers last year, and the fig­ure is ex­pected to reach more than 500,000 this year,” Zhang said.

To this end, China South­ern Air­lines plans to put more high-end jet­lin­ers, in­clud­ing Boe­ing 787s and Air­bus 380s, into use on in­ter­na­tional routes, Zhang said.

Zhu Jian­min, po­lit­i­cal com­mis­sar of the Guangzhou Fron­tier Sta­tion, promised to open spe­cial chan­nels to for­eign tourists who ar­rive at the Guangzhou air­port for visa- free vis­its.

Yang Rongsen, di­rec­tor of the Guang­dong Tourism Ad­min­is­tra­tion, said the visa-free pol­icy will not only ben­e­fit Guang­dong’s tourism in­dus­try, but also the city’s cater­ing and re­tail busi­nesses, taxis and re­lated sec­tors.

For­eign pas­sen­gers who visit Guangzhou un­der the visa- free pol­icy will spend more than 5 bil­lion yuan ($815.4 mil­lion) in Guang­dong in the com­ing year, Yang added.

Ni­cole Tan, pub­lic re­la­tions di­rec­tor for the Ritz- Carl­ton Ho­tel in Guangzhou, said the visa-free pol­icy of­fers new busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties for ho­tels in the city.

“The Ritz-Carl­ton is plan­ning to of­fer new and spe­cial pack­ages for the grow­ing num­ber of for­eign pas­sen­gers who will visit Guangzhou in the fol­low­ing months,” Tan said.

The ho­tel also ex­pects to in­crease co­op­er­a­tion with China South­ern Air­lines to at­tract more for­eign clients, Tan added.

Guangzhou be­gan al­low­ing for­eign tran­sit pas­sen­gers 72- hour visa-free stays this month, be­com­ing the third main­land city to in­tro­duce the visa-free pol­icy. Trav­el­ers from 45 coun­tries who in­tend to visit a third coun­try and who hold air­line tick­ets to con­tinue their trip are al­lowed to stay in Guangzhou with­out a visa for three days and go any­where in Guang­dong.

Guangzhou is fol­low­ing Bei­jing and Shang­hai in in­tro­duc­ing visafree stays. The pol­icy in­cludes vis­i­tors from the United States, Canada, Bri­tain, France, Ger­many, Rus­sia and Ja­pan.

In­sid­ers said more for­eign pas­sen­gers will visit the prov­ince as the visa-free pol­icy is pro­moted. Li Wenfang and Xu Jingxi con­trib­uted to this story.

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