Chengdu visa-free pol­icy to lure more tourists

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - NATION - By HUANG ZHILING in Chengdu huangzhiling@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

Zhu Zhangyi is ex­cited that his home­town, Chengdu, Sichuan prov­ince, will be­come the fourth Chi­nese city af­ter Bei­jing, Shang­hai and Guangzhou to adopt a 72-hour visa-free pol­icy.

“I’m sure it will bring more over­seas tourists to Chengdu,” said Zhu, deputy cu­ra­tor of the Jin­sha Site Mu­seum.

The pol­icy, which will go into ef­fect on Sept 1, will al­low tran­sit pas­sen­gers from 45 coun­tries who have valid visas and a flight ticket to a third coun­try to stay up to 72 hours in Chengdu and cities and coun­ties un­der its ad­min­is­tra­tion, ac­cord­ing to the city govern­ment.

Those who over­stay their visit may be fined, de­tained or de­ported from the coun­try, said Chen Yongzhi, deputy chief of Sichuan Armed Po­lice Fron­tier Corps.

When the pol­icy is im­ple­mented, Chengdu will be the first city in an in­land re­gion of China to adopt the visa-free plan.

With a pop­u­la­tion of more than 14 mil­lion, the provin­cial cap­i­tal of Sichuan re­ceived 122 mil­lion tourists last year. Around 1.6 mil­lion came from abroad, ac­cord­ing to govern­ment fig­ures.

Tourists have fre­quently vis­ited the Jin­sha Site Mu­seum, lo­cated next to the ar­chae­o­log­i­cal site of the same name, since it opened in 2007. “Each year, about 1.2 mil­lion peo­ple visit our mu­seum. But it is re­gret­table that fewer than 100,000 are from over­seas,” Zhu said.

In com­par­i­son, Hangzhou, the cap­i­tal of Zhe­jiang prov­ince with a pop­u­la­tion of 8.8 mil­lion, re­ceived more than 3.3 mil­lion over­seas tourists in 2012.

Robert Barsby, a Bri­tish hote­lier in Chengdu, said the visa-free pol­icy will en­hance the city’s in­ter­na­tional im­age. He said it would be con­ve­nient for in­ter­na­tional busi­ness trav­el­ers to visit the city or ac­cess it in tran­sit.

Shuan­gliu In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Chengdu, the fourth largest in China in terms of pas­sen­ger traf­fic, has 22 di­rect flights to 16 coun­tries and re­gions around the world. The num­ber of peo­ple pass­ing through China via the air­port is ex­pected to sur­pass 2.3 mil­lion at the end of this year.

Luo Xiaohu, an of­fi­cer with the Sichuan Armed Po­lice Fron­tier Corps, said a ma­jor rea­son why Chengdu was cho­sen as the first city in an in­land re­gion to adopt the visa-free pol­icy is be­cause it has more in­ter­na­tional flights than any other city in cen­tral and western China.

Sev­eral for­eign gen­eral man­agers at in­ter­na­tional five-star ho­tels in the city said they be­lieve the pol­icy may boost the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try, which has been slug­gish since the coun­try’s new lead­er­ship dis­cour­aged govern­ment of­fi­cials from ex­trav­a­gant galas and events this year.

Through the first half of this year, six in­ter­na­tional five-star ho­tels in the city, in­clud­ing Shangri-La, Re­gal Mas­ter and the Kempin­ski, lost 60 mil­lion yuan ($9.77 mil­lion) in room book­ings, com­pared with the same pe­riod last year, said Barsby, gen­eral man­ager of the Re­gal Mas­ter Ho­tel in Chengdu, who has lived in China for al­most 20 years.

ZHU XINGXIN / CHINA DAILY

Pan­das frolic at the Chengdu Re­search Base of Gi­ant Panda Breed­ing in Sichuan prov­ince.

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