In­dus­try buoyed by re­laxed visas for cruis­ers

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By KAHON CHAN in Hong Kong kahon@chi­nadai­

The city’s tourism in­dus­try has wel­comed the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a new pol­icy that al­lows main­land tourists to visit Tai­wan, Ja­pan and South Korea al­to­gether if they board a cruise ship in Hong Kong and travel in a group. The pol­icy was one of the ini­tia­tives un­veiled by the cen­tral govern­ment in June 2012 to foster closer eco­nomic ties be­tween Hong Kong, the main­land and Tai­wan. The National Tourism Ad­min­is­tra­tion is­sued a no­tice on Thurs­day out­lin­ing the de­tails.

Main­land tourists will be per­mit­ted to join a cruise ship in Hong Kong sail­ing to Ja­pan or South Korea as long as the ship makes a port of call at any Tai­wan port. They can re­turn to the main­land di­rectly from Ja­pan or South Korea.

Apart from ex­ist­ing reg­u­la­tions, other lim­i­ta­tions will ap­ply — all tourists must travel in a group or­ga­nized by a tour op­er­a­tor qual­i­fied to host Tai­wan tours. They must com­plete the trip in the same group and hold valid doc­u­ments for en­try to all places.

Op­er­a­tors must still file ap­pli­ca­tions with their re­spec­tive provin­cial ad­min­is­tra­tion. The National Tourism Ad­min­is­tra­tion will only green-light no less than 100 tourists from each prov­ince for one cruise sail­ing.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board wel­comed the an­nounce­ment. Chair­man Peter Lam Kin-ngok said he be­lieves the pol­icy will draw more main­land cruis­ers and boost the city’s com­pet­i­tive­ness for cruise lines.

Once tour op­er­a­tors on the main­land un­veil re­lated prod­ucts, the board plans to launch mar­ket­ing cam­paigns for main­land vis­i­tors. The board also hopes the city would step up co­op­er­a­tion with Tai­wan and other nearby ports to pro­mote re­gional cruise travel.

Tony Wu, di­rec­tor of the Tai­wan Vis­i­tors As­so­ci­a­tion in Hong Kong, said they an­tic­i­pate new op­por­tu­ni­ties from the pol­icy, given that cruis­ing is gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity among main­land res­i­dents.

Travel In­dus­try Coun­cil Chair­man Michael Wu Siu- ying said the mea­sure is unique be­cause main­land res­i­dents were re­quired to re­turn home af­ter a visit to Tai­wan. “It is great news for Hong Kong to pro­mote it­self as a home­port for cruise lines,” he said.

Wu ex­pected the first pack­aged tour to sail in the sec­ond half of 2014 and says the in­dus­try will have no dif­fi­culty find­ing 100 cruis­ers from a main­land prov­ince or city, based on pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence.

Cruise itin­er­ar­ies can of­ten be booked two years in ad­vance of sail­ing and few con­firmed itin­er­ar­ies fit into the rout­ing cri­te­ria set out in the pol­icy. The 116,000ton Di­a­mond Princess, for in­stance, will sail from Hong Kong to two ports in Ja­pan, with a stop at Keelung, Tai­wan, in the month of April 2014 and 2015.

The 91,000- ton Celebrity Mil­len­nium will also call at Keelung for its April sail­ing from Hong Kong, be­fore it con­tin­ues to ports in Ja­pan and South Korea, and dis­em­barks in Shang­hai. It will also run the itin­er­ary in 2015.

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