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Tourist groups can enter China with visa-free policy

China on Wednesday launched a policy allowing visa-free entry of foreign tour groups aboard cruise ships through all ship ports along the country’s coastline, Chinese media reported.

Tourist groups of two or more foreigners can now enter China visa-free aboard cruise ships through cruise ports in 13 Chinese cities, including Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou and Sanya.

Tourists can stay in China for no more than 15 days. They can visit coastal provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions as well as Beijing, the National Immigration Administration (NIA) said in a statement.

In addition, the NIA announced that seven cruise ports, namely Dalian, Lianyungang, Wenzhou, Zhoushan, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Beihai, have been designated as visa-free transit ports for citizens from 54 countries.

The move facilitates the transit and departure of foreign travellers from these ports on cruise ships in line with China’s visa-free transit policy.

To make cruise entry and departure procedures more convenient, NIA has introduced a series of measures aimed at easing clearance for foreign cruise passengers, crew embarkation and cruise service, among other services, according to Mao Xu, a senior NIA official.

How the visa-free policy started

The adoption of a 15-day visa-free policy for international cruise travellers came after several years of successful trials.

A pilot test of the policy began in Shanghai in October 2016. It allowed foreign cruise travellers to explore Shanghai, Beijing and other cruise port cities, as well as neighbouring cities.

With more choices of ports of entry and expanded visiting zones, foreign visitors will have a richer experience in China. They will also enhance the country’s appeal to international tourists, said Zhu Jialiang, associate professor at Xiamen University.

With 18,000 kilometres of coastline, China boasts an ever-improving port infrastructure, rich tourism resources and a rapidly growing service industry. All these advantages make it a major stopover for international cruise liners.

Currently, China’s inbound cruise tourism market is gaining momentum. More than 14,000 tourists from at least 47 countries and regions visited China on cruise ships from February to April.

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