Yun­nan re­opens land routes to South­east Asia

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - NATION - By HU YONGQI in Kun­ming huy­ongqi@chi­

Thir­teen over­land routes be­tween Yun­nan prov­ince and neigh­bor­ing South­east Asian coun­tries were re­opened on Mon­day af­ter eight years of sus­pen­sion, pro­vid­ing a boost for tourism and other busi­nesses in the re­gion.

On hear­ing the news, lo­cal tourism agen­cies were over­joyed at the prospect of in­creased num­bers of tourists trav­el­ing in both di­rec­tions, while jade traders could not wait to ex­pand their cross­bor­der busi­ness.

Un­der new rules, both res­i­dents and non-res­i­dents of Yun­nan can ap­ply for travel per­mits to visit towns in Viet­nam, Laos and Myan­mar.

Ap­pli­ca­tions must be made with exit and en­try au­thor­i­ties in five bor­der pre­fec­tures and cities: Wen­shan Zhuang and Miao au­ton­o­mous pre­fec­ture, Honghe Hani and Yi au­ton­o­mous pre­fec­ture, Xishuang­banna Dai au­ton­o­mous pre­fec­ture, De­hong Dai and Jingpo au­ton­o­mous pre­fec­ture and Baoshan city.

Travel agen­cies will be per­mit­ted to or­ga­nize sight­see­ing vis­its to gov­ern­ment-des­ig­nated ar­eas for spec­i­fied pe­ri­ods.

“In the past, cross-bor­der travel was a high­light of Yun­nan’s tourism in­dus­try. How­ever, it was sus­pended due to the boom­ing casi­nos in neigh­bor­ing coun­tries,” said Duan Qingyuan, pres­i­dent of the Kun­ming Travel Agency As­so­ci­a­tion.

Ini­ti­ated in the early 1990s, cross-bor­der travel was harmed by con­cerns over gam­bling in the bor­der ar­eas. The gov­ern­ment cracked down on cross-bor­der gam­bling ac­tiv­i­ties in 2004 and of­fi­cially closed the busi­ness on Nov 2, 2005.

The sus­pen­sion had a cat­a­strophic im­pact on the lo­cal tourism in­dus­try in pre­fec­tures such as De­hong, which had pre­vi­ously seen con­sid­er­able tourism-re­lated busi­ness.

In the 1990s, around 290,000 visi­tors to the pre­fec­ture were pass­ing through on one-day trips to Myan­mar.

As early as 1992, Ruili in De­hong re­ceived 3.09 mil­lion tourists, bring­ing in about 200 mil­lion yuan ($32 mil­lion) in rev­enue.

Wang Mingliang, deputy di­rec­tor of De­hong Tourism Bureau, said 75 per­cent of the visi­tors to the pre­fec­ture have plans to travel in Myan­mar.

Hekou county, a na­tional en­try point in Honghe, also suf­fered eco­nomic losses dur­ing the sus­pen­sion. At least 60 star-rated ho­tels have been strug­gling with empty rooms fol­low­ing the sus­pen­sion, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

In Jan­uary 2011, Honghe and Wen­shan were cho­sen to pi­lot the re­open­ing of cross-bor­der travel and the is­su­ing of per­mits for non-res­i­dents.

The Depart­ment of Pub­lic Se­cu­rity in Yun­nan said it has found no gam­bling ac­tiv­i­ties that will cause harm to visi­tors.

Po­lice in Yun­nan have es­tab­lished a co­op­er­a­tion sys­tem with neigh­bor­ing coun­tries to stop gam­bling-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties. Af­ter sev­eral years of hard work, at least 300 tourists now visit Hekou ev­ery day and Wen­shan also en­joys a grow­ing num­ber of cross­bor­der trav­el­ers.

Be­tween Oct 28 and Nov 1, the Min­istry of Pub­lic Se­cu­rity and the China Na­tional Tourism Ad­min­is­tra­tion con­ducted checks on the re­open­ing of cross-bor­der travel in Yun­nan, and ap­proval was fi­nally given on Nov 27.

Cai Lingyan, deputy gen­eral man­ager of Yangyang­hao In­ter­na­tional Jew­elry Com­pany in Ruili, said the re­sump­tion of cross­bor­der tourism will boost the lo­cal jade in­dus­try.

Cai’s com­pany has made a se­ries of plans to re­ceive new visi­tors. “Our com­pany is the only one in a 3A travel desti­na­tion in the coun­try that man­u­fac­tures raw jade stone, and we hope more peo­ple will come to the town and our com­pany to ex­pe­ri­ence jade stone trad­ing and its tech­niques,” Cai said.

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