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Enhancing Tourism, People-to-People Exchanges

Source: 科技日报 | 2024-06-01 00:56:42 | Author: GONG Qian

An aerial drone photo taken on May 15, 2024 shows the cruise ship Dream berthing at Tianjin International Cruise Home Port in north China's Tianjin Municipality. China announced that foreign tourist groups can enter the country visa- free via cruise ship ports in 13 cities including Tianjin. (PHOTO: XINHUA)

By GONG Qian

"This Summit is a critical step in further expanding travel and tourism between our countries, providing a truly unique and important opportunity to strengthen connections between leaders, companies, and other stakeholders in our travel and tourism sectors," U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Industry and Analysis Grant T. Harris said at the 14th China-U.S. Tourism Leadership Summit held in Xi'an, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, on May 22.

In his address, Harris said that the U.S. is expected to welcome 91 million international visitors by 2026. Attracting more Chinese travelers to visit the country is crucial for achieving this goal. Chinese inbound travelers to the U.S. will increase 150 percent from 2023 to 2025, 4.7 times faster than the rise in total overseas visits to the U.S. during this period, according to Harris.

Chris Thompson, president and CEO of Brand USA, the destination marketing organization for the U.S., who co-hosted the Summit, also highlighted the significance of the return of Chinese travelers for the U.S. tourism economy. According to its website, Thompson said "The return of Chinese visitors is critical for the U.S. tourism industry and essential for the full recovery of our economy."

Meanwhile, China has been rolling out multiple measures to streamline the inbound tourism process, address issues and optimize visa and customs policies, improve tourism services, and upgrade the management of the shopping environment at cultural and tourism sites.

For example, on May 6, China extended the visa-free policy for short-term visits to China until the end of 2025 for 12 countries. They are France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Malaysia, Switzerland, Ireland, Hungary, Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg. Moreover, China announced on May 15 that foreign tourist groups can enter the country visa-free via cruise ship ports in 13 cities.

Ignacio Ramos from Spain, currently working as an associate professor focusing on cross-cultural communication at Jilin University in northeast China's Jilin province, is highly appreciative of the visa-free policies. They will definitely attract more foreigners to visit the country for business, travel and academic symposia, thus further promoting exchanges between people and cross-industry communication globally, Ramos told Science and Technology Daily (S&T Daily). "China's implementation of visa-free policies is a reflection of its commitment to openness," Ramos added. He also hopes that the duration of staying in China can be expanded longer in the future, so that more marvelous places can also be enjoyed for inbound travelers.

Visa-free policies are a practical tool for facilitating tourism and trade exchanges between nations. It is expected that China's present visa exemption measures will encourage increased numbers of both business and vacation travelers to come to China, Huang Songshan, the head of the Center for Tourism Research in the School of Business and Law at Australia's Edith Cowan University, wrote in his article published on East Asia Forum.

China has also unveiled guidelines to improve payment services, including promoting the acceptance of international bank cards and guaranteeing the use of cash, so as to address payment difficulties faced by foreign tourists.

Due to such favorable policies and measures, China has witnessed a growing number of foreign travelers. According to the National Immigration Administration, over 1.98 million foreign travelers received visa-free entry in the first quarter of this year, up by 266.1 percent.

Ramos believes that as more overseas visitors experience China firsthand, they will discover the genuine China and recognize the politeness, kindness and good sense of humor of the Chinese people.

"Word of mouth will also help improve China's national image in the international community," Ramos told S&T Daily.

On the other hand, China's outbound tourism is also increasing. As its economy shifts towards being more consumption-oriented, and people are willing to spend more with rising disposable incomes, the share of tourism in total household expenditure will further increase, thus benefiting the growth in outbound tourism, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

More travel and tourism will foster mutual understanding of people around the world. China's efforts to strengthen people-to-people exchanges will lead to a community with a shared future for mankind, said Ramos. He anticipated further advantageous measures to be implemented in order to improve interaction among varied cultures.

Editor: 龚茜

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