Marketing outreach for visa-free Chengdu

Updated: 2014-12-18 13:27

By Fu Chao(China Daily)

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Chengdu authorities continue to explore new ways to promote the city on the international tourism landscape.

More than a year after launching a 72-hour visa-free policy, they rolled out a range of promotional campaigns and new products to boost inbound tourism and eventually develop into an international travel destination.

The visa policy that took effect in September 2013 allows citizens from 51 countries to spend three days in Chengdu if they have valid third-country visas and flight tickets to onward destinations.

Marketing outreach for visa-free Chengdu

Chengdu's 72-hour visa-free policy allows passengers from 51 countries to spend three days in the city if they have valid third-country visas and onward flight tickets. Photos Provided to China Daily

Marketing outreach for visa-free Chengdu

Sichuan Opera is famed for its unique face-changing techniques.

Marketing outreach for visa-free Chengdu

Chengdu is also renowned as the home of the giant panda, an iconic symbol of China and huge tourist draw.

Marketing outreach for visa-free Chengdu

Kuanzhai Alley is popular with tourists in the city due to its well-preserved ancient buildings.

Marketing outreach for visa-free Chengdu

Forest-clad Qingcheng Mountain, recognized as the birthplace of Taoism, is a world cultural heritage site.

The capital of Sichuan province is the first city in the western region of China to offer visa and the fourth nationwide to adopt the policy following Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou.

After the policy took effect, the number of overseas visitors to the city from September to December 2013 increased 19.55 percent compared with the same period the year before.

Online marketing

The city's tourism bureau has teamed up with Chengdu Culture and Tourism Development Group to present a series of online marketing packages targeted mainly at United States and European travelers.

The pair just launched an official English-language website,, offering detailed and up-to-date information to help international tourists "travel like locals".

The website highlights information on 72-hour visa-free transit services including guidelines on the policy and all the scenic spots travelers can reach in 72 hours. It also features personal experiences from overseas travelers and recommendations accompanied by eye-catching pictures.

Earlier this year, the Chengdu Culture and Tourism Development Group set up a page with the theme "72 Challenge - Come to Chengdu" on Tripadvisor, the world's largest website for travel reviews and suggestions.

Aimed to reach travelers in the US, the United Kingdom, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia, the Tripadvisor effort presents detailed information on the city and its most popular destinations, as well as personal travel tips. Its page views have surpassed 3.5 million.

The theme "72 Challenge - Come to Chengdu" is also used in a range of digital marketing projects including a presence on Facebook and YouTube.

People can watch original video clips on travel tips for the 72-hour stay in Chengdu. The videos now have more than 340,000 views.

The company also invited British actress Bonnie Wright, famous for playing the role of Ginny Weasley in Harry Potter, to a 72-hour stay in Chengdu as the tourism ambassador in September. The actress took a taste of the city's hotpots, tea and traditional culture, and also learned to cook the renowned cuisine mapo tofu with a local chef.

The city is also working on a new marketing campaign called "Chengdu Dreamer" in which it will choose 10 participants from the 51 eligible countries who want to reach their dreams in the city.

According to a staff member at the culture and tourism development group, the value of the 72-hour visa-free policy lies in being a namecard for Chengdu and bringing in travelers with huge spending power.

New tourism products

Officials from the city's tourism bureau said they have been improving travel services to make them more personal and comprehensive.

There is also a tourism association of hotels, restaurants, scenic spots, travel agencies and airlines in the city that offers integrated travel packages.

The culture and tourism development group is now working with European travel group TUI to develop a range of special routes. The two have drawn on their own resources to promote the new products to industry experts and general travelers.

The company is cooperating with international airlines including British Airways, Air France-KLM and Air China. Travelers flying with the three airlines can enjoy shuttle bus services to a selection of eight travel routes in Chengdu.

The company also offers online discounts on the official websites of partner airlines.

The city now has 21 international passenger air routes, and 22 transit and chartered routes to Europe, the Middle East, Oceania and Asia.

Chengdu welcomed 1.5 million inbound tourists in the first three quarters of the year, up 17.55 percent, according to official statistics.

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