- Visa scheme is being extended in effort to increase tourism revenues
- Official figures say visa-free short stays are becoming popular with visitors
China will increase the number of ports of entry offering tourists a six-day visa-free stopover to 27, immigration authorities said on Wednesday.
From December 1, tourists from 53 countries can gain entry without a visa to 20 cities through the ports for up to 144 hours, the National Immigration Administration said.
China started the scheme to attract more business and holiday travellers and expand visitor numbers from outside Asia, its main source of tourism income.
Visitors need a current passport and tickets to a destination outside China that are valid within the visa-free period to gain entry.
In most cases, visitors will be limited to the city where they arrived, but inbound travellers at Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport in southwestern China will be able to visit 11 cities across Sichuan province.
In January, Qingdao in eastern Shandong province and Wuhan " the capital of central Hubei " were two of four cities that began offering 144-hour stays.
The visa scheme already includes major cities such as Beijing, the northern coastal metropolis of Tianjin, Shanghai, and the technology centre of Hangzhou in eastern Zhejiang province.
Mainland Chinese tourists are staying away from Taiwan, but the self-ruled island doesn't seem to mind
Official figures showed that 452,000 visa-free visits have been approved since 2013. There were 100,000 such visits in 2018, up 24 per cent from a year earlier.
The 53 countries include the United States, Canada, European Union members, Russia, Japan and South Korea, South American nations such as Brazil and Argentina, as well as Scandinavia and Gulf Arab states.
The number of tourists to China has grown steadily in the past four years, although 74 per cent of those were from Hong Kong and Macau, a report by the World Tourism Alliance and the China Tourism Academy said last month.
In 2018, a total of 141.2 million tourists arrived in China, a 1.2 per cent year-on-year increase, the China Tourism Academy said. Income from international tourism was US$127.1 billion, up 3 per cent on 2017.
China's share of inbound tourist trips fell from 5 per cent of all international tourism in 2007 to 4 per cent in 2017, a study by consulting firm McKinsey said.
China's outbound tourism market is the biggest in the world, where about 150 million people went overseas in 2018.
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