Beijing set to welcome visa-free visitors

2012-12-05 22:42:46 GMT2012-12-06 06:42:46(Beijing Time)  China Daily

The decision to waive visas for foreign visitors for 72 hours is a major step toward Beijing's goal of becoming an open international city, tourism experts said.

The capital announced on Wednesday that, from Jan 1, visitors from 45 countries will be allowed a three-day stay without a visa.

The program, of particular benefit to transit passengers and business people, will make the city more accessible and allow tourism to be a strategic pillar of the economy, the Beijing Tourism Development Committee said.

"The waiver is definitely a giant step forward that will greatly boost tourism," said Zhang Hui, a professor of tourism at Beijing Jiaotong University.

"Business tours and high-end travel will benefit the most.

"Those on business trips usually don't have sightseeing plans, so they're free to explore when they have time," Zhang said. "However, the relatively tight visa restrictions China now adopts only put potential visitors off.''

The countries include the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Japan and Singapore, according to the committee.

No decision has been made on including more countries and the program will have to be evaluated.

Tourists from the 45 countries, as long as they hold a ticket to a third country and proof of identity, are entitled to the visa exemption, the committee said.

The Beijing General Station of Exit and Entry Frontier Inspection said the station would strive to provide a convenient and effective service.

The visa exemption only applies to the capital. To go to other cities, foreigners will have to go through the public security bureau's exit and entry administration.

"Those traveling to other provinces and cities, even to neighboring cities like Tianjin, will face punishment," if they travel without the required documentation, said Gao Huada, deputy director of the exit-entry administration under the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau.

However, the exact details were not released on Wednesday.

Visitors who break the law during their stay will face a lifetime ban, he said.

Foreigners have to carry identity documents with them while traveling during the 72 hours, and their documents must be checked by police within 24 hours of their arrival in the city.

"These procedures are just in case of accidents," he said.

Members of the public can dial 5609-5400 or visit the station's website if they have any questions.

According to Gao Lijia, executive vice-president of Beijing Capital International Airport, the number of inbound passengers will rise sharply as a consequence of the policy.

"We have been looking forward to the implementation of the visa waiver for so long," he said.

"We are fully prepared to embrace our first batch of visitors and it's also an opportunity to contribute to the city's tourism development."

In addition, the waiver is expected to increase jobs at the airport. One extra flight can create hundreds of positions over the year, according to the committee.

BTG International Travel and Tours said they designed a number of products to cater for the surge.

"We have prepared cultural performances, including martial arts and Beijing Opera, in the evening so that they can enjoy more of the city's charm in a short space of time," said Sun Lianqin, deputy general manager of the company.

According to Wang Yue, deputy director of the Beijing Tourism Development Committee, Beijing needs to make greater efforts to improve tourism and its global appeal.

"The capital should further open up its transit policy," she said.

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Editor: Yu Runze
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