Organized by NIC travel agency of the Republic of Korea (ROK), 21 ROK tourists, with valid ordinary ID documents, were smoothly led out of the Phoenix International Airport in Sanya of Hainan Province by representatives of the local Chinese travel agency early Thursday morning.
They are the first group of visa-free tourists Hainan has received since the island province announced early this year that members of tourist groups from 21 countries will be given visa-free treatment for tours on the island within 15 days.
The practice has won the approval of China National Administration for Tourism and the Chinese Ministry of Public Security.
The 21 countries are: Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand.html target=_blank>Thailand, ROK, the Philippines, Indonesia, Germany, Britain, France Austria, Italy, Russia, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Travel agencies in these countries, who have been approved by the China National Tourism Administration to do travel business in Hainan, will only be required to present names of the tourist groups they have organized before visiting this southern Chinese island province. Each tourist group should have no less than five members. However, foreign journalists will still have to get visas.
The move is not applicable for residents of Hong Kong and Macao, who can travel in any part of the country with necessary documents to prove their identity and required travel permits.
Compatriots from Taiwan can apply for travel permits on the Chinese mainland in Haikou, the provincial capital of Hainan, or Sanya, a well-known tourist resort on the southern tip of Hainan Island, and will be allowed to leave the mainland with the travel permits at any port of exit and entry across the country.
Before this, foreigners from countries that have established diplomatic relations with China were allowed to get visas upon arrival at Haikou or Sanya for business, visiting relatives or tourism.
Hainan now hosts around 500,000 overseas tourists annually, said Cai Shidong, head of Sanya City Bureau of Tourism, adding the visa-free policy would help boost Hainan's overseas tourism.
(People's Daily 03/02/2001)