Guangzhou is expected to become the third Chinese city to allow foreign visitors to transit for 72 hours without a visa, according to Tan Wangen, general manager of China Southern Airlines.
Tan said the policy will help boost tourism in Guangdong province and boost the local economy. "We are actively talking with the local airport and customs authorities to push the implementation of the visa-free transit policy as soon as possible," Tan said.
Since Jan 1, travelers from 45 countries have been benefiting from 72-hour visa-free stays in Beijing and Shanghai, a move that is expected to boost consumption.
Tourists holding third country visas and plane tickets are allowed to apply for a transit without visa at the Beijing Capital International Airport and Shanghai’s Hongqiao and Pudong airports.
Foreign visitors are not permitted to leave the cities to travel to other Chinese cities during the 72 hours, and have to depart from the two cities.
"If the negotiations go smoothly, the policy will be implemented in Guangzhou within this year," Tan was quoted as saying by Xinhua News Agency.
"Optimizing the transit service is a priority for us this year to attract more foreign passengers", said Tan, adding that tourists would be able to travel to sites around the Pearl River Delta region within those 72 hours.
Since the policy was introduced in January, Shanghai has registered more than 1,000 foreign passengers transiting from its Hongqiao and Pudong airports without visas, sources with the local immigration control authorities said.
The number of inbound tourists to Beijing is expected to increase to 10 million passengers within the next three years, as a result of the policy, said Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism Development.
Tan was speaking after an agreement was signed on Monday between the airline and a delegation led by New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who came to promote economic and trade ties between the two countries.
The Guangzhou-based airline is the only domestic carrier that flies to New Zealand, following the opening of a Guangzhou-Auckland route in April 2011. Two more routes are due to be launched soon, connecting the southern city with Christchurch and Wellington.
Under the agreement, China Southern passengers can get visas without showing proof of property or employment.
"The Guangzhou-Auckland daily flight has become a major route for the company and is in high demand by both Chinese and foreign travelers," said Tan, adding the service has boosted the number of Chinese tourists to New Zealand by almost 40 percent since it was launched.
Sources with Guangdong tourism authorities said the number of inbound tourists decreased by 2.6 percent year-on-year to reach 107 million in 2012.
But agencies in Guangzhou said they are already planning new services for foreign visitors staying for 72 hours.
Lu Yujing, a sales manager with GZL International Travel Service, said: "A growing number of foreign business travelers have canceled their trips due to the global economic downturn.
"The authorities should introduce some incentive measures, such as the visa-free transit policy, to attract more foreign visitors."