Visa-free tourism boom expected

Updated: 2014-04-17 07:12

By Li Fusheng (China Daily)

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Travel and hospitality industries in Chengdu are expected to benefit from the city's new visa-free 72-hour stay policy, said industry insiders.

The policy, which started last September, allows nationals from 51 countries in Asia, the Americas, Europe and Oceania to spend three days in the city if they have valid visas and onward flight tickets to a third country.

"This policy will bring more international passengers," said Wang Pei Chong, SilkAir's manager for western China. SilkAir was one of the first international airlines to operate direct routes to the southwestern metropolis, renowned for pandas.

"More importantly, it will strengthen Chengdu's international reputation and its air transport hub status in Southwest China."

Etihad Airways anticipates more international travelers and recently increased the number of flights between Abu Dhabi and Chengdu.

With its daily flight schedule, Etihad Airways is well positioned to respond to any increases in demand for business and leisure travel on the route, the airline told China Daily.

The city has 70 international flight routes, with at least three more expected to open this year.

Visa-free tourism boom expected

In addition to airlines, Wang said related travel industries, including hospitality and entertainment, would also benefit if demand increases.

Chris Clark, general manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Chengdu, said the policy and the new flights would help hotels attract more guests.

"We have seen a very positive trend from our website in February that shows the average length of guests' stay increased to almost four days."

Statistics from the Chengdu entry and exit administration show that as of March 31, about 100 travelers on their way to other countries spent time in the region, in accordance with the policy. Most were from the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany.

The Chengdu city government expects the number to reach 1,300 in 2016, according to a notice on its website.

To achieve the target local authorities have come up with a range of services to make visits easier for foreigners.

A bilingual call center was set up and 20 training sessions were held by late March for workers in the hospitality industry.

International companies in Chengdu were also encouraged to invite their overseas employees to make use of the policy. A total of 252 Fortune 500 companies had a presence in the city by the end of 2013, according to Chengdu's investment promotion commission.

The government said it will extend visits of people wanting to stay longer than three days within three days of filing an application.

Hotels in the city are also coming up with ways to attract the potential influx of international travelers.

Clark said his hotel will soon offer tailor-made products including the "Chengdu Experience Package", which will provide information on where to go, what to eat and where to shop efficiently, so visitors can get the most out of their 72 hour stay.

Richard Deutl, general manager of The St Regis Chengdu, which is due to open in June, said his hotel was well prepared with short-stay packages for international business and leisure travelers.

"For these travelers, we support them in all aspects to make their stays most personalized and exquisite ones so that they can concentrate on the purpose of their trip."

He said his colleagues would address the needs and expectations of families visiting Chengdu for a holiday or busy business people arranging meetings.

The Chengdu tourism authority is joining hands with 18 cities and prefectures in Sichuan province to attract international travelers, according to Sichuan Daily.

The report said they are offering seven two-day and three-day tours, which give travelers the chance to see the major attractions in the province. These include Qingcheng Mountain and the Dujiang Weir in Chengdu's satellite city of Dujiangyan, which are on UNESCO's World Heritage List.

Chengdu was the first city in western China and the fourth nationwide to introduce the 72-hour stay visa-free policy.

The other three are Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Visa-free tourism boom expected

Foreign diplomats join the tug of war when Chengdu residents in Sichuan province open the gates of the city's ancient Dujiangyan dam as part of an annual local festival. Provided to China Daily

Visa-free tourism boom expected

An ancient alley in Jinli, a popular tourist destination in the provincial capital. Zhong Hongyu / For China Daily

Visa-free tourism boom expected

Spitting fire is a stunt performed as part of Chuan Opera. Li Ling / For China Daily

Visa-free tourism boom expected

Shu Embroidery is one of the four most famous kinds of traditional Chinese embroidery, named by region. Wang Xiao / For China Daily

Visa-free tourism boom expected

Hotpot is a well-known local cuisine, which adds appeal to Sichuan. Provided to China Daily