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Kunming to join list of 72-hour visa-free cities

Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, is to launch a 72-hour visa-free policy for transit passengers from 51 countries, local authorities said on Thursday.


The tourism venue will become the eighth Chinese city to offer such a service, following those such as Beijing and Shanghai. The move is aimed at boosting income from tourism. The policy has also been implemented in Chongqing; Guangzhou, in Guangdong province; Chengdu, in Sichuan; and Shenyang and Dalian in Liaoning. Guilin, in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, is expected to introduce the policy soon.


Local authorities said the 72-hour visa-free policy, ratified by the Yunnan Department of Public Security, will be approved by the Ministry of Public Security. Visitors from 37 European countries, six in the Americas, six in Asia and two in Oceania will benefit from the new policy.


They will be able to stay in the city of Kunming for up to 72 hours, beginning from midnight on the day of arrival. Xu Xinyu, deputy director of the working department at Yunnan Airport Group, which controls Kunming Changshui International Airport, said Yunnan has direct flights to South Korea, Japan, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates, which are all on the visa-free list. Wang Jun, deputy director of the Kunming Tourism Development Commission, said star-rated tourism sites, hotels and travel agencies have drawn up plans for one- to three-day travel in the city and information is provided in brochures at Kunming airport.


Last year, the city received 56 million domestic and foreign visitors, a year-on-year increase of 19 percent, Wang said. Of these, 1.23 million international visitors spent $403 million.


Kunming airport is working with customs authorities, border defense police and the inspection and quarantine authorities to provide a special gateway to international visitors if they need to stay in the city for up to three days.


However, travel agencies are not overly optimistic about the new policy because of the small number of international enterprises in Kunming.


Liu Jianmin, general manager of Yunnan Airlines International Travel Service, said the policy would be a stimulus for the local tourism market. But he said that unlike Beijing and Shanghai, where branches of multinational corporations are located, Kunming has few international enterprises.


"Even though Yunnan has strong ties with Southeast Asian countries, the policy doesn't allow visitors from the region to stay in Kunming without a visa," Liu said. "Therefore, I don't believe it will have a strong effect." 


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