Bei­jing set to lure more visa-free tran­sit tourists

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHENG XIN zhengxin@chi­

Bei­jing has vowed to step up pro­mo­tion of its 72-hour visafree pol­icy, aim­ing to at­tract more for­eign tran­sit tourists fol­low­ing a drop in ar­rivals for overnight stays in the past six months.

About 2.14 mil­lion tourists vis­ited the cap­i­tal dur­ing the first half of the year, a 14.3 per­cent de­cline com­pared with the same pe­riod last year, ac­cord­ing to the Bei­jing statis­tics depart­ment.

“The city is con­sid­er­ing fur­ther co­op­er­a­tion with Bei­jing Cap­i­tal In­ter­na­tional Air­port and Air China to come up with air ticket dis­counts, while build­ing an al­liance to at­tract more for­eign tran­sit tourists,” Lu Yong, di­rec­tor of the Bei­jing Com­mis­sion of Tourism De­vel­op­ment, said at a con­fer­ence.

Bei­jing in­tro­duced the 72- hour visa- free pol­icy for tourists from 45 coun­tries on Jan 1, but it has not had the ex­pected ef­fect.

The cap­i­tal also saw year-onyear de­clines in in­bound tourists in the first six months of 1989, 1998, 2003 and 2008, the com­mis­sion said.

The weak global econ­omy has de­terred many po­ten­tial trav­el­ers from Ja­pan and South Korea, with tourist ar­rivals from th­ese two coun­tries fall­ing by 54.5 per­cent and 22.3 per­cent re­spec­tively in the first six months.

In ad­di­tion to a stronger yuan, which in­creases the cost for tourists to China, fre­quent air pol­lu­tion also con­trib­uted to the poor in­bound tourism per­for­mance in the first six months, Lu said. More im­por­tantly, Bei­jing, to­gether with many other Chi­nese cities, is not pro­vid­ing ser­vices that meet in­ter­na­tional stan­dards, mean­ing many po­ten­tial trav­el­ers stay away.

Jiang Yiyi, di­rec­tor of the China Tourism Acad­emy’s in­ter­na­tional tourism de­vel­op­ment in­sti­tute, said cheaper air tick­ets are one of the main ways to at­tract many tran­sit trav­el­ers.

“Many tourists pre­fer tran­sit stops, ei­ther due to a cheaper air ticket or the ad­di­tional value this brings. Cheaper air tick­ets play a key role in at­tract­ing more for­eign vis­i­tors,” she said.

Yang Jin­song, a pro­fes­sor spe­cial­iz­ing in in­ter­na­tional tourism at the acad­emy, said Bei­jing should carry out a study on for­eign tourists who ben­e­fit from the visa-free pol­icy so that it can come up with tai­lor-made tourism prod­ucts.

“Many of the tour pack­ages no longer meet for­eign tourists’ de­mands,” he said.

Fur­ther study is needed to find out whether tran­sit vis­i­tors come to Bei­jing for busi­ness or plea­sure, Yang added.

Takahide Tanaka, di­rec­tor of a med­i­cal in­sti­tute who lives in Tokyo, has been a fre­quent busi­ness trav­eler to Bei­jing, but said it has been grad­u­ally los­ing its ap­peal, with few tour choices of­fered in re­cent years.

“Many of the tour pack­ages in the city have re­mained un­changed for years,” he said. “What’s more, the de­val­u­a­tion of the yen and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the yuan have made trav­el­ing in China for Ja­panese peo­ple much more ex­pen­sive.”

The cap­i­tal in­vested 25.08 bil­lion yuan ($4.08 bil­lion) in the tourism in­dus­try in the first half of the year, ac­count­ing for 8.9 per­cent of its fixed as­set in­vest­ment.

Tourism rev­enue in Bei­jing reached 175.98 bil­lion yuan in the first six months, a 9.1 per­cent in­crease year-on-year, the com­mis­sion said, with spend­ing by tourists on meals and shop­ping reach­ing 91.73 bil­lion yuan, a year-on-year in­crease of 11.9 per­cent.

Rev­enue from do­mes­tic tourism in Bei­jing dur­ing the first six months reached 162.07 bil­lion yuan, a year-on-year in­crease of 11.7 per­cent.

Lu es­ti­mates that tourism rev­enue growth in the sec­ond half will be around 10 per­cent.

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