Foreign visitors sample Laba porridge at Yonghe Lama Temple. [PHOTO BY ZOU HONG/CHINA DAILY]
The start of a 144-hour visa-free waiver policy for international travelers to Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province will create a boom in local tourism, industry insiders said.
The visa waiver, which came into effect on Dec 28, allows foreign nationals from 53 countries a stay of up to six days in the three areas during international transfer - doubling the length of the previous waiver.
A British tourist applying for a 144-hour stay at Beijing Capital International Airport's Terminal 3 said the city had many must-see attractions and the new policy enabled plenty of time to learn about the local culture.
The tourist told China Radio International that Beijing was on his itinerary this time round, but he expected to take advantage of the waiver for tours in Tianjin and Hebei on future visits.
Tourism industry insiders said that since Beijing began its 72-hour visa-free policy in January 2013, the capital has become hugely popular with overseas travelers.
More than 100,000 visitors to Beijing had benefited from it by the end of November, or about 20,000 on average a year, according to the Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism Development.
Government data showed that Beijing received more than 4.16 million inbound visits in 2016, nearly 3.55 million of them from abroad. As a result, tourism revenue for 2016 surged to $5.07 billion, up 10.1 percent year-on-year.
Compared with its predecessor, the latest policy has extended in time and geographical reach, allowing visits beyond the capital to nearby Tianjin and Hebei province.
The waiver is expected to draw more foreign tourists to the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and serve as an added incentive to fuel growth in the local market, Yu Qianqian, deputy director of the tourism commission, told a news conference in late December.
The commission said it is encouraging local travel service providers to design products tailor-made to the visa-free transit policy, ranging from one-day to six-day packages, in a bid to showcase the region's rich tourism resources.
At a meeting in early December, tourism authorities in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei decided to develop five integrated tourism development demonstration areas by the end of 2020.