Hainan grants visa-free access to tourists of 59 countries

By Liu Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2018/4/18 21:03:40

Visa-free visits to help boost island tourism in gesture of opening-up

China is expanding its visa-free access to Hainan Island for tourists from 59 countries who are planning to visit China's southern-most province after May 1, in a move likely to boost the island's tourism industry and its reform and opening-up.

For the first time, individual tourists will be allowed to fly into the tropical island and stay for up to 30 days without the hassle of having to apply for a visa. After arriving on the island, tourists will only be required to check into a hotel, or report to a local public security bureau within 24 hours. Tourists to Hainan without a visa are not allowed to visit other parts of China.

The visa-free policy will benefit tourists from 59 countries, including Russia, Britain, France, Germany, and the US, the State Immigration Administration announced Wednesday.

The new policy extends the existing visa-free period from 21 days to 30 days, according to a news release sent to the Global Times by The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) on Wednesday.

"The visa policy announced on Wednesday is the most open in China and it covers most developed countries and the main tourist-generating countries," Liu Simin, vice-president of tourism with the Chinese Society for Future Studies, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Liu said that the visa policy will benefit Hainan's tourism sector and its plans for further opening up and reforms.

The new policy will also help burnish Hainan's international image and give a boost to the local economy, reads the MPS release.

"Compared to more mature resort destinations in the Mediterranean region and some Southeast Asian countries, Hainan needs to promote its uniqueness as a tourist spot with Chinese characteristics. It needs to find a way to overcome its lack of services," Liu said.

Reciprocal agreements possible

China has been relaxing its visa policy in recent years to attract foreign tourists, said Liu, noting that dozens of Chinese cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou in South China's Guangdong Province, Changsha in Central China's Hunan Province and Harbin in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, offer 72-hour visa-free entry to tourists.

Beijing was the first city to offer the opportunity for short, visa-free visits beginning in January, 2013. Tourists holding third-country visas and plane tickets with a departure date within 72 hours after their arrival are free to explore the nation's capital without first obtaining a visa.

The MPS has actively supported the development of Hainan and carried out a series of regulations to boost the number of overseas tourists. Since 2000 it has allowed tourist groups to tour the island for up to 15 days without obtaining visas. Visa-free travel offered to tourist groups was expanded from 20 to 25 countries in 2010, read the Wednesday release.

China should open its visa regulations even further, said Song Quancheng, director of the Institute of Migration Studies at Shandong University.

Liu said that China could use its visa-relaxing policies in Hainan to make reciprocal visa-free policies with other countries that allow Chinese tourists to travel without being required to obtain a visa. "It would improve the quality of the Chinese passport," said Liu, adding that "a wider visa-free circle with friendly countries could also help boost Hainan's tourism," Liu said.

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