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28 Jan, 2013

Better Services Suggested To Build on China’s New 72-hour Visa-free Policy

By Zheng Xin (China Daily)

Beijing, 2013-01-25, China Daily – The capital should study passenger flow and draw up supporting services to complement Beijing’s 72-hour visa-waiver offer, a political adviser has said.

Despite the opportunities that have arisen through the visa exemption policy introduced on Jan 1 – tourists from 45 countries may stay in the capital for three days without a visa – more supporting measures are necessary to boost the city’s tourism development, said Shen Jinsheng, a member of the Beijing Municipal Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

Australian citizen Zhou Wei waits at the 72-hour visa-waiver counter at Beijing Capital International Airport on Jan 1. Zhou was the first tourist to benefit from the exemption policy after its introduction. [Photo/Xinhua]

“The move to encourage foreign transit visitors to travel and shop in the ancient capital will absolutely bring new business opportunities to the city. However, the butterfly effect still requires some supporting measures, including targeted tourism products and the establishment of some duty-free shops,” said Shen, who is also the deputy director of the Beijing Commission of Commerce.

According to the Beijing Tourism Development Committee, the policy is aimed at making the capital more accessible to the world and is expected to attract more overseas travelers.

“The city should conduct a study on the foreign tourists that benefit from the policy, including the purpose and schedule of their transit,” he said. “Knowing whether they come for business or simply for fun will help us design more specific and clearly-targeted tourism products to meet their demands and better present the city.”

Foreign tourists can take full advantage of the ancient city if they are provided with a well-designed travel package for the 72 hours. However, it’s a pity if they simply tour the city in a taxi and learn about the city through some broken English, he said.

His comments were echoed by Zhang Hui, a professor of tourism at Beijing Jiaotong University, who said Beijing should come up with various tourism products and packages targeting different transit tourists to better meet demand and increase consumption.

“From the research so far, the transit passengers that benefit from the visa waiver policy are mainly those on the high-end travel and convention tours, usually businessmen and officials,” he said. “We should further study what particular kinds of tourism activities they are interested in and how to arrange the schedule to better reveal the ancient city to the world.”

Zhang said hosting international festivals and sports events can also boost the city’s high-end tourism development. The impact of the visa on Beijing’s tourism industry is not yet obvious, but the policy presents a good opportunity, and Beijing needs to take full advantage of it, he said.

The city’s tourism committee said the government is considering establishing duty-free shops in the city to better support the visa waiver policy.

According to the Beijing Chaoyang district commission of commerce, a retail hub that attracts foreign traders, such as Yabao Road, will be turned into a pilot area for outlets offering tax refunds and duty-free shopping.

Detailed plans regarding the size and brands covered are not yet released, it said.