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February 12, 2014

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Tourists benefit from new visa policies

The visa-free and visa-on-arrival policy implemented by 45 countries for Chinese tourists has hastened the tour package booking time considerably.

Tourists numbers have also gone up for countries like Thailand, local travel agencies said.

Travelers now need only two days to book their trips — from the previous five days — to countries like Thailand and Sri Lanka after a landing visa policy came into effect last month, online operator Ctrip said.

Datong Travel Agency said there was also less worry among travelers about visa issues after the change in policy. 

Ctrip claimed that there was a large number of tourists seeking details about Thai tour packages after the visa-on-arrival policy was implemented.

Travel agencies expect the number of Chinese tourists to Thailand to soar after the bilateral visa exemptions agreement between Thailand and China is signed later this year.

Thai tourism authorities said about 4.7 million Chinese tourists traveled to Thailand last year, up by 68 percent from 2012.

But Chinese tourists have to be careful for trips to some of the countries in the list.

A Chinese visitor still needs a US visa before arriving in the Bahamas which also announced a visa-free policy.

There is no airport at San Marino, which also implemented a visa-free policy, so a Chinese will need an Italian visa before entering San Marino.

Tour prices have also dropped after the Spring Festival, usually a slack time for travel.

Five-day tour packages to popular destinations like Sanya and Xiamen dropped to 2,000 yuan (US$322) to 3,000 yuan per person in February and March from 6,000 to 7,000 yuan at its peak during the holiday.

A six-day tour package to Bali Island, Indonesia, costs about 3,500 yuan now, down by 60 percent from the Lunar New Year.

Packages to Europe were also down by 10 to 15 percent.

The price for a 13-day trip to Italy, Switzerland and France dropped by 3,000 yuan.

Meanwhile, the Shanghai Tourism Administration said yesterday it had received about 80 complaints during the Spring Festival with online travel operators Ctrip and Tuniu topping the list.

A large number of the complaints related to schedule changes due to flight delays while others were about hotel problems, tour guides, dispute over scenic spot tickets, shopping and drivers.

There were complaints about overcrowding and ticket problems at the Shanghai Wildlife Park.

The “moon boat,” the Saudi Arabia Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo in Pudong, was faulted for the attitude of its shuttle bus drivers.



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