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Ease visa rules for mainlanders

Foreign countries and regions need to relax visa regulations for mainland tourists if they want to use the burst of potential outbound travelers from the mainland to their advantage, said a tourism book released yesterday.


Many countries and regions now eye China as an important market for tourism that has stood strong in the face of the global economic slowdown, wrote Zhang Guangrui, director of the tourism research center with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, in China's Tourism Green Book. But those countries continue to have visa requirements, making Chinese think twice before traveling.


A report released earlier by the World Economic Forum ranked the Chinese mainland 47th among 133 destinations by its overall competitiveness, but placed the mainland at 128th position for its visa policy toward visitors.

The rankings showed the mainland's visa requirements for visitors from most countries and regions had hindered inbound tourism, but it also proved that, in return, "very few countries and regions offer tourists from the mainland visa-free or visa-friendly policies", Zhang said.


Only a few countries and regions allow tourists from the mainland to visit them without visas or apply for the visas upon arrival, said Zhang Rui, a marketing manager with of the Beijing Caissa International Travel Service Co Ltd.


Mainland tourists do not require visas to enter Russia if they're part of a group tour, while the Maldives and Indonesia allow tourists from the mainland to apply for visas on arrival.


"If more favorable visa policies can be made available, it is natural many more mainlanders will opt to travel abroad. It would mean more business for US tour operators at destinations where mainlanders face language problems," she said.


The mainland's outbound tourism market has been brisk in recent years. According to the National Tourism Administration, more than 45 million tourists from the mainland visited overseas destinations last year, with a year-on-year increase of nearly 12 percent, in contrast to the global average growth of less than 2 percent.


A tourist from the Chinese mainland spent an average $1,775 overseas, figures in the green book show.


But strict visa requirements in many countries inconvenience a number of Chinese tourists and make them feel discriminated against, Zhang Guangrui said.


With Thailand's government recently agreeing to allow mainland tourists a four-month stay without visa, Zhang predicted many more countries would likely simplify entry procedures this year.


China's Tourism Green Book, the eighth of an annual series, also highlighted a few other trends in outbound tourism.


"More tourists from the mainland, especially those with shopping on their agenda, pay close attention to the currency rate at destinations and prefer traveling to destinations where the yuan is stronger," it said.