As the Chinese economy goes all out to embrace new areas of commerce, one important change looks set to produce dividends. China's major cities are all looking for innovative methods of kick-starting their various enterprise plans.
One of the prize assets any ambitious business could ask for is a decent share of international travelers. Whether they're arriving in China laden with sterling, US dollars or indeed any other currency, it goes without saying that the longer they stay in China, the more likely they are to cause dents in local retail markets. In recent times there has been a significant drive to coax these tourists into venturing outside of their usual comforts zones. In short, they are being cajoled to leave airports and begin to seriously enjoy all be fine dining and sightseeing opportunities China has to offer.
Five of the largest cities in China: Beijing, Shanghai, Chongging, Chengdu and Guangzhou have introduced a revolutionary visa-free policy. This means that any travelers to these respective cities will be entitled to remain there for periods of up to 72 hours – without visas. Elsewhere in the People's Republic, the city of Dalian is expected to adopt this new approach early next year.
The signs have immediately been promising. Throughout the summer, groups of tourists from as far afield as Australia and France were welcomed into these cities without visas for the very first time. It is fair to say the exercise has been a resounding success. These westerners, relishing their new-found freedom, were to be observed in numbers, sitting outside cafes sipping tea, or getting tucked into bowls of noodles.
As part of the lifting of these visa regulations, travelers must already possess travel tickets into another country, along with the other standard travel documents. In the first instance, the policy was granted to visitors from 45 nations, including Europe and the USA. This was extended last month, and now covers an additional six countries, including Singapore, Japan and Brunei (although visitors from the latter three countries were already allowed to stay without visas for upwards of 15 days).