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Chengdu's visa-free policy to lure more tourists
Publication Date : 24-08-2013
Zhu Zhangyi is excited that his hometown, Chengdu in Sichuan province, will become the fourth Chinese city after Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou to adopt a 72-hour visa-free policy.
"I'm sure it will bring more overseas tourists to Chengdu," said Zhu, deputy curator of the Jinsha Site Museum.
According to city government officials, the policy, which will go into effect on September 1, will allow transit passengers from 45 countries who have valid visas and a flight ticket to a third country to stay up to 72 hours in Chengdu and cities and counties under its administration.
Those who overstay their visit may be fined, detained or deported from the country, said Chen Yongzhi, deputy chief of Sichuan Armed Police Frontier Corps.
When the policy is implemented, Chengdu will be the first city in an inland region of China to adopt the visa-free plan.
With a population of more than 14 million, the provincial capital of Sichuan received 122 million tourists last year. Around 1.6 million came from abroad, according to government figures.
Tourists have frequently visited the Jinsha Site Museum, located next to the archaeological site of the same name, since it opened in 2007. "Each year, about 1.2 million people visit our museum. But it is regrettable that fewer than 100,000 are from overseas," Zhu said.
In comparison, Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province with a population of 8.8 million, received more than 3.3 million overseas tourists in 2012.
Robert Barsby, a British hotelier in Chengdu, said the visa-free policy will enhance the city's international image. He said it would be convenient for international business travelers to visit the city or access it in transit.
Shuangliu International Airport in Chengdu, the fourth largest in China in terms of passenger traffic, has 22 direct flights to 16 countries and regions around the world. The number of people passing through China via the airport is expected to surpass 2.3 million at the end of this year.
Luo Xiaohu, an officer with the Sichuan Armed Police Frontier Corps, said a major reason why Chengdu was chosen as the first city in an inland region to adopt the visa-free policy is because it has more international flights than any other city in central and western China.
Several foreign general managers at international five-star hotels in the city said they believe the policy may boost the hospitality industry, which has been sluggish since the country's new leadership discouraged government officials from extravagant galas and events this year.
Through the first half of this year, six international five-star hotels in the city, including Shangri-La, Regal Master and the Kempinski, lost 60 million yuan (US$9.77 million) in room bookings, compared with the same period last year, said Barsby, general manager of the Regal Master Hotel in Chengdu, who has lived in China for almost 20 years.
Must-see sights during 72 hours in Chengdu:
• Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
On any given day, more foreigners might be found at the center in the northern suburbs of Chengdu than in the entire city.
"Each year, 300,000 foreign tourists visit our base," said Pu Anning, chief of the center's general office.
The base was established in a mountainous area in March 1987 with six sick and hungry pandas. It currently has 121 pandas.
The bamboo forests make the base an ideal site for a half-day visit, which starts at 7:30 am when pandas usually stay outside their dens, eating bamboo and frolicking.
• Temple of the Marquis of Wu
In the afternoon, history buffs can visit the site built for Zhuge Liang (AD 181-234), prime minister of the Shu Kingdom during the Three Kingdoms period (AD 220-280) and now the personification of loyalty and wisdom in China.
The temple is the most widely known of about 100 ancient sites in China related to the Three Kingdoms period.
Statues of civil officials and generals of the Shu Kingdom, most of whom are household names in Chinese culture, are on display at the museum.
• Jinli Street
After visiting the temple, tourists can stroll this nearby street built in the traditional Chinese architectural style. It offers a variety of local snacks ranging from noodles to dumplings priced from 5 yuan to 10 yuan ($0.82 - $1.83).
• Jinsha Site Museum
On 8 Feb 2001, workers at an apartment construction site in Jinsha in western Chengdu found pieces of ivory and jade in a pile of mud.
Since then, archaeologists have excavated more than 5,000 relics, including items of gold, jade, bronze and stoneware, as well as a metric ton of intact elephant tusks.
Many of the relics are on display in the Jinsha Site Museum.
• Du Fu Thatched Cottage Museum
Upon entering the gardenlike museum near Jinsha, visitors stand on what is considered sacred land in historical Chinese literature.
The museum is dedicated to Du Fu (AD 712-770), a poet who lived in the transitional period coinciding with the decline of the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).
Du, who experienced a great deal of hardship, used poems to record social ills, national conflict and chaos caused by war and daily suffering.
About 240 of his 1,400-plus poems Chinese people read today were written in Chengdu when he lived in the thatched cottage for nearly four years.
Near the northern entrance of the museum is a restaurant serving the famous spicy dish of mapo tofu, first served in 1862.
For the third and final day, visitors can visit this city under the administration of Chengdu.
The Dujiangyan Irrigation Project is the world's only preserved water conservation project that doesn't have a dam. The project was included in the Unesco's World Cultural Heritage List in 2000.