SHANGHAI - A new policy allowing overseas tourists traveling in a group to get visas upon arrival in East China's Zhejiang province may greatly boost local tourism, local authorities said on Sunday.
In the past, foreign tourists who wanted to visit Zhejiang had to land in other cities, such as Shanghai, which took longer time and more money, hindering Zhejiang's effort to become an international tourism destination, said Kong Liang, deputy director of the visa section of the exit-entry administration bureau of the provincial public security department.
"The new policy is expected to help boost tourism in Zhejiang," he said.
Currently, visas are available upon arrival at several ports in China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Nanjing.
Zhejiang is among the popular provinces for foreign visitors in China. In 2009, about 5.7 million inbound tourists visited the province, most of whom came with groups that entered China via Shanghai, official figures show.
Under the new policy, travel agencies in charge of foreign visitors need to submit their personal data and visa applications to a special visa office at the Xiaoshan International Airport three days before the tourists' arrival.
The office will inform the travel agency about the outcome of the applications one day prior to their arrival.
While applauding the long-term benefits the new policy may bring, some travel agencies have doubts about its effectiveness.
"Theoretically, inbound visitors who want to land directly in Hangzhou may save at least $100 compared to those who enter Zhejiang after stopping over in Shanghai," said Jia Liang, a staff member with the international tour department of China Youth Travel Service's Hangzhou branch.
However, applying for visas upon arrival may be inconsistent with the usual practice of foreign travelers who usually get visas before departure, which is indispensable to making a detailed tour plan, Jia said.