(From left to right) CPPCC members Zhang Haidi, Zhou Hanmin, Wan Gang and Wan Jifei prepare for an Expo-related press conference in Beijing on Monday. [Yang Shizhong / China Daily]
'Easy visa policy' pledged to make event accessible to foreigners
BEIJING: Foreign visitors can expect convenient visa applications when they come to China for the Shanghai World Expo this year, organizers of the upcoming event pledged on Monday.
"The policy of making it convenient for overseas and foreign tourists to visit the Expo is already in place," Zhou Hanmin, deputy director of the World Expo 2010 Shanghai Executive Committee, said on the sidelines of the annual session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, China's top political advisory body.
"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has given us great support and already notified Chinese embassies and consulates across the world to adopt an easy visa policy during the period," Zhou said.
The Shanghai Expo is expected to draw a record 70 million visitors from home and abroad during the exhibition period from May 1 to Oct 31. About 5 percent or more of the visitors will come from abroad, according to official estimates.
A total of 550,000 hotel beds will also be available in Shanghai and extra Expo visitors to the metropolis can book in hotels in nearby cities of the Yangtze River Delta, Zhou said.
Visa applications remain a major concern for many foreign tourists keen to visit the Expo, as they fear there will be visa restrictions imposed for security reasons, just as the Chinese authorities did during the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
In the run-up to the Beijing Games, hotel operators in the capital and foreign businessmen said Chinese visa restrictions were bad for business at a time when it was supposed to be a busy tourist season leading up to the sporting event.
The New York Times reported in June 2008 that many hotels in Beijing were struggling to find guests and that people scheduled to travel there for seminars and conferences canceled their plans. The number of foreign tourists visiting Beijing fell sharply by 14 percent in May that year, according to the city's statistics bureau.
Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng also confirmed on Monday that foreigners "would not face any obstacle" in visa applications and that the city is well prepared to offer them foreign language guidance on maps, phone calls and volunteer services.
Construction workers are seen at the UK Pavilion in the Shanghai World Expo site in Shanghai March 8, 2010. [Photo/Agencies]
But Han also raised concerns over the potential surge in Shanghai's hotel prices. He said the government will seek to contain the increase.
Wan Jifei, executive director of the Shanghai World Expo Executive Committee and a member of the Standing Committee of the CPPCC National Committee, said the opening ceremony of the Shanghai World Expo, scheduled for the night of April 30, will be staged on the Huangpu River, which will be dotted with fireworks and laser performances.
"While it cannot be compared to the scale of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, it has its own characteristics," he said.
Wan did not provide further details of the ceremony, which he said would be attended by 100 heads of state.
According to statistics from the organizing committee, 192 countries and 52 international organizations have confirmed their participation in the global exhibition that traditionally showcases the latest advances in architecture, engineering and technologies worldwide.