Fly­ing in

Guangzhou tran­sit pol­icy ex­pected to ap­peal most to busi­ness trav­el­ers

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By XU JINGXI in Guangzhou xu­jingxi@chi­nadaily.com.cn Zhuang Na con­trib­uted to this story.

Guangzhou lures trav­el­ers af­ter of­fer­ing 72-hour visafree stays to air pas­sen­gers.

Guangzhou, the third city af­ter Bei­jing and Shang­hai to of­fer 72-hour visa-free tran­sit to air­line pas­sen­gers, is win­ning over trav­el­ers.

The city’s his­toric and mod­ern at­trac­tions are part of the rea­son, but it has one ad­van­tage that the other two cities don’t: the 72-hour count­down com­mences the day af­ter ar­rival, ac­cord­ing to Yang Hongyan, deputy di­rec­tor of the mar­ket­ing depart­ment of the Guangzhou Tourism Bureau.

Guangzhou wel­comed its first for­eign 72-hour visa-free tour group on Tues­day.

The 23 for­eign­ers ar­rived to a warm wel­come by China South­ern Air­lines at Guangzhou Baiyun In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

They were also wel­comed by the Guangzhou Tourism Bureau, the Guangzhilu In­ter­na­tional Travel Ser­vice and the air­port ad­min­is­tra­tion.

A spe­cial half-day tour was ar­ranged free of charge for the for­eign­ers, from coun­tries in­clud­ing the United States, Aus­tralia, New Zealand and France.

Their first day got off to a tasty start with a Can­tonese break­fast at the Gar­den Ho­tel. Then it was time for sight­see­ing.

The Chen Clan Acad­emy, built in the Qing Dy­nasty ( 1644- 1911) was a pop­u­lar at­trac­tion. Af­ter that morsel of his­tory, moder­nity called.

The tourists were taken to the heights of de­light as they en­joyed a bird’s-eye view from the 600-me­ter Can­ton Tower.

Spa­niard Fer­nando Quis­pez, who teaches Asian cul­ture in the US, was on his first trip to Guangzhou but he has been to China be­fore.

He is fas­ci­nated by Chi­nese his­tory, ar­chi­tec­ture and sculp­ture and has trav­eled to Bei­jing and Shang­hai.

He was fly­ing to Dubai on va­ca­tion, by way of Guangzhou, and with the help of the new pol­icy, he fi­nally got the op­por­tu­nity to en­joy a city with a his­tory of more than 2,200 years.

“I’m stunned by the Ling­nan cul­ture in the Chen Clan Acad­emy and the mag­nif­i­cent sight of the Can­ton Tower. It’s such a pity that we had only half a day for the trip, which is not enough to ex­plore this amaz­ing city.’’

New im­age

Hold­ers of pass­ports from 45 coun­tries can en­joy a visafree stay in Guang­dong prov­ince for 72 hours.

The pol­icy is ex­pected to es­tab­lish Guangzhou’s in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion as a tourist city as well as a busi­ness cen­ter, ac­cord­ing to Kuang Yingjun, mar­ket­ing man­ager at China In­ter­na­tional Ser­vice’s Guang­dong branch.

To show­case Guang­dong’s charm, China In­ter­na­tional Ser­vice has de­signed new tour routes, each with a spe­cific theme. “It could be the Mar­itime Silk Road or the Hakka cul­ture,” Kuang said.

The Ritz-Carl­ton in Guangzhou hasn’t seen a sig­nif­i­cant growth in the num­ber of guests, ac­cord­ing to An­drew C Rogers, the ho­tel’s gen­eral man­ager. But that is likely to soon change as the pol­icy be­comes more pub­li­cized.

“I’m sure that with such an at­trac­tive pol­icy and the govern­ment’s ac­tive pro­mo­tion, Guangzhou will be­come a glob­ally im­por­tant tourist city,” said Rogers.

The ho­tel has be­come a se­lected part­ner of China South­ern Air­lines.

Guests can make a reser­va­tion for the pack­age de­signed for 72-hour visa-free tran­sit pas­sen­gers, which in­cludes ac­com­mo­da­tion, shut­tle ser­vice be­tween the air­port and the ho­tel, tick­ets to the Can­ton Tower and Guang­dong Mu­seum.

The Guangzhilu In­ter­na­tional Travel Ser­vice, a lead­ing travel agency in South China, has seen a 30 per­cent rise in for­eign­ers in­quir­ing about Guangzhou and Guang­dong in the past week or so.

Four­teen of the 23 tran­sit pas­sen­gers who ar­rived at the Baiyun air­port on Tues­day de­cided not to go on the half-day tour as they wanted a rest.

Guangzhilu’s mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor Wen Qian told China Daily that the agency ex­pects to re­ceive more than 1,000 tourists on a 72-hour visa-free tran­sit com­ing to Guang­dong by the end of this year.

“There are about 2,000 tran­sit pas­sen­gers in Guangzhou ev­ery day, count­ing only the statis­tics of China South­ern Air­lines. I think the an­nual to­tal of tran­sit pas­sen­gers will be more than 1 mil­lion,” she said.

Wide ap­peal

The visa- free tran­sit also ap­peals to busi­ness trav­el­ers.

Fang Fang, di­rec­tor of Guangzhilu’s in­bound tourism depart­ment, said that more busi­ness trav­el­ers have con­sulted the agency about the pol­icy than tourists.

“The 72-hour visa-free tran­sit pol­icy will di­rectly ben­e­fit for­eign busi­ness­men com­ing to Guangzhou. For ex­am­ple, over­seas buy­ers par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Can­ton Fair don’t need to ap­ply for a visa,” said Fang.

The ma­jor­ity us­ing the new pol­icy will be busi­ness trav­el­ers, if Bei­jing and Shang­hai are any­thing to go by, ac­cord­ing to Yang from the Guangzhou Tourism Bureau.

“Apart from tourist at­trac­tions, we will pro­mote trips to exhibitions and fairs for busi­ness trav­el­ers,” said Yang.

Whether they are tourists or busi­ness trav­el­ers, Guangzhou’s visa-free tran­sit pol­icy will cer­tainly at­tract more tran­sit pas­sen­gers, ac­cord­ing to Zhang Yu­min, gen­eral man­ager of Guangzhou Baiyun In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

“The num­ber of tran­sit pas­sen­gers at our air­port ev­ery year will pass 1 mil­lion in 2013 and climb up to 1.5 mil­lion in 2015,” Zhang es­ti­mated.

“It’s im­por­tant for an air­port to de­velop into an in­ter­na­tional avi­a­tion hub so that for­eign­ers have easy ac­cess to the city,” Zhang said.

“The open­ing of Guangzhou’s visa-free tran­sit is a land­mark for the Baiyun air­port on its way to be­comimg a world-class hub.”

The air­port is be­com­ing an im­por­tant junc­tion con­nect­ing Europe, Aus­tralia, South­east Asia and Africa.

To fa­cil­i­tate visa-free tran­sit for travel to other cities in the prov­ince, the air­port has launched 17 long- dis­tance coach routes. And it has also of­fered car rental ser­vices.

How­ever, the visa poli­cies still need im­prove­ments and more over­seas pro­mo­tion.

Marco Ri­mondi, a 49-yearold Ital­ian busi­ness­man who fre­quently flies to China on busi­ness trips, hopes that the au­thor­i­ties will ex­tend the length of visa-free stay.

“Tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion the jet leg, 72 hours doesn’t seem to be a long pe­riod for me to tour a city,” said Ri­mondi.

Zhao Gui­hong, pro­fes­sor from the School of Economics and Man­age­ment at Civil Avi­a­tion Univer­sity of China, ad­vised lo­cal gov­ern­ments to con­nect the air­ports in Bei­jing, Shang­hai and Guangzhou, al­low­ing visa-free tran­sit pas­sen­gers in Bei­jing to leave through the air­port in Shang­hai or Guangzhou within the 72 hours.

XU RONG / FOR CHINA DAILY

Guangzhou’s first for­eign 72-hour visa-free tour group vis­its Can­ton Tower on Tues­day. The city be­came the third in the Chi­nese main­land af­ter Bei­jing and Shang­hai to of­fer 72-hour visa-free tran­sit to air­line pas­sen­gers.

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