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March 7, 2014

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Call for 72-hour visa to become a week long

A LOCAL legislator wants the 72-hour visa-free policy to be extended to a week, claiming the existing measure fell way short of expectations.

Ma Xulun, general manager of China Eastern Airlines and a national lawmaker, said restrictions on city limits and 72 hours were not enough to attract transiting passengers.

The Pudong International Airport receives an average about 1,500 passengers who transfer to other flights every day. But only about 50 apply for the visa, Ma told Shanghai Daily yesterday. The number was also low in Beijing and Guangzhou.

The policy, which came into effect in major cities on January 1 last year, allows citizens from 45 countries to stay in the city for 72 hours before taking their next connecting flight.

Ma told the national legislative body to extend the period of stay for travelers and allow  them to travel to neighboring cities.

“If passengers can travel around the Yangtze Delta region and spend some nights there, or even take a train to Beijing, more visitors will take up the scheme,” he said.

The current policy requires foreign travelers to stay in the city and leave from the same port, which Ma said, was also a hindrance and wanted it changed.

The visa policy also failed to boost tourism.

One and two-day tour packages specifically targeting this group of tourists have not sold well, said Yang Guoxi, an official with the Shanghai Tourism Administration.

Most travelers applying for the visa-free policy are on business trips, he said.

More than 15,000 foreign visitors have taken advantage of the scheme since last year.

Among them, about 2,300 were Americans, followed by Australians and Germans, the Shanghai Exit and Entry Frontier Inspection authorities said.

Officials said the figure is expected to grow further with the development of the Shanghai pilot free trade zone and the opening of the Shanghai Disney Resort in 2015.

Applicants should notify their airline, which applies for the visa-free stay with the local immigration authorities. A flight ticket with definite information of destination, date and boarding pass are required.


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