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More foreign tourists swarm to China's island province on visa-free entry

(Xinhua)

13:15, October 21, 2011

HAIKOU, Oct. 21 (Xinhua) -- Foreign tourists are taking advantage of a visa-free entry policy to visit China's southernmost island province of Hainan.

The tourists, mostly from Russia, Kazakhstan, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Malaysia, are now able to join tour groups and register with authorities just one day ahead of their scheduled departure date. The previous policy required tourists to wait for about a month to have their visas processed at a cost of 70 U.S. dollars each.

"I was still busy with my work in Saint Petersburg three days ago, but now I am enjoying my vacation here in Sanya," said Russian tourist Boronilov Vadim, who was found reading by a coconut tree in the coastal resort city. "The visa-free entry policy saves us both time and money."

The visa-free policy is part of a State Council-approved plan to build the island province into an international tourist destination.

In December 2009, the State Council proposed facilitating the border management of Hainan by adding five countries -- Finland, Denmark, Norway, Ukraine and Kazakhstan -- to a list of 21 countries that have already been granted visa-free entry.

In the meantime, tourists from Russia, the ROK and Germany may enjoy the visa-free policy as long as they travel in groups of two or more and plan to stay in China for a maximum of 21 days.

The number of foreign tourists to Hainan has grown tremendously since the policy took effect on Aug. 12 last year, according to Dong Xia, general manager of the Hainan Shenlong International Tour Agency.

"We have been receiving more than 60 inbound international flights each month," Dong said.

Statistics from the Hainan Exit and Entry Administration showed that more than 50,000 foreign tourists visited Hainan visa-free in the first half of the year, up 30.2 percent year-on-year.

Hainan's tourism revenues have been bolstered by the increased number of tourists. Revenues from January to June totalled 15.33 billion yuan (2.4 billion dollars), up 10.4 percent year-on-year, according to the provincial government.

In order to further promote Hainan, tourism authorities held a promotional conference in Copenhagen, Denmark in July this year to woo European tourists.

Zhang Huifa, head of the China Tourist Hotel Association, suggested that the visa-free entry policy be extended to cover foreign tourists who come to Hainan via Hong Kong or Macao.

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