Simpler visa procedures are passport to success
Updated: 2012-02-10 14:34
By Xin Dingding, Zheng Yangpeng and Shi Yingying (China Daily European Edition)
Visa applicants gather outside the US embassy in Beijing on Jan 30. [Zou Hong / China Daily]
What others do
Industry observers noted that the new US visa policy follows a global trend of adopting "Chinese-friendly" policies to boost tourism.
Japan, for instance, has relaxed its visa policy to Chinese tourists three times since 2009. Now, an applicant who lives in a big city and has a credit card can get a visa to Japan.
New Zealand last year reduced the number of documents it requires and raised the number of multiple-entry visas issued.
Spanish Tourism Minister Miguel Sebastian said at a business forum in Barcelona in July that Spain planned to ease visa requirements for Chinese nationals, encourage more direct flights between the two countries and open more tourist offices in China.
Germany, which like the US requires personal interviews of applicants, plans to simplify and speed its visa issuance this year, according to a Reuters report in December. However, the embassy told China Daily recently that no changes are expected soon.
Industry observers noted that all the new measures of developed countries stopped short of lowering the standards for issuing visas to mainland Chinese. However, policy changes do indicate that other countries are realizing the importance of the Chinese market, said Jiang Yiyi, director of China Tourism Academy's International Tourism Development Institute.
"We find that once a country relaxes its visa policy for Chinese tourists, it usually produces immediate results in the growth of visitor numbers."
After Japan eased its visa policy, she said, mainland tourists to Japan exceeded 1 million that year and reached 1.41 million the next.
The World Tourism Organization said global tourism grew 4.4 percent last year, but China's international travel increased 20 percent. Nearly 70 million mainlanders visited overseas destinations including Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan; about 20 million visited other foreign destinations.
Big spenders welcome
According to the US Department of Commerce, Chinese tourists on average spend more than $6,000 per trip, compared with about $4,000 spent by all international travelers in the country.
More than 800,000 Chinese visitors contributed $5 billion to the US economy in 2010. Based on that, and a projected 135 percent increase in visitors, Chinese travelers would contribute $11.75 billion to the US economy in 2016.
A Beijinger who joined a tour group last year did his part. The man, who gave his name only as Qi, said every member of his group spent at least 20,000 yuan ($3,167) on top-brand clothes, shoes and bags. (Food and lodging were extra.)
Qi said he is thrifty and doesn't buy expensive clothes at home, but regretted having curbed his spending on the trip. "I wished I had bought more, because clothes and shoes of some brands are indeed cheaper in the US than in Beijing."
Yang Wen, 37, a human resources manager in Shanghai, said she plans to apply next month to visit the US in May. She said she spends hundreds of thousands of yuan on luxury goods every year while traveling abroad. People like her can help boost the gross domestic product in the US, she said.
Michele Rothstein, spokeswoman for Simon Property Group's premium outlets division, said in an email that the group is "pleased with the growth (in) visitors from China who have embraced our outlet centers as must-visit destinations. ... We look forward to initiatives that enable more people to come to the US."
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