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Travel agencies report upsurge in ticket bookings


The 144-hour visa-free entry policy - for nationals with eligible travel identification and reserved tickets from 53 countries - is already producing strongly positive results.

Bookings of tickets to scenic spots in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei have grown by 30 percent since the policy was launched on Dec 28, China's biggest online travel agency Ctrip reported.

In addition, bookings for surrounding hotels have also witnessed more than 20 percent in growth since the initiative was rolled out.

"The move will significantly benefit the tourism industry, especially because Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei abound in tourism resources," said Peng Liang, director of Ctrip's public relations department.

The Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism Development is already working on new and improved tourism products with major travel operators, including Ctrip, the China Youth Travel Service and Beijing Caissa International Travel Service Co.

The products will cover among other things cultural heritage, traditional Chinese medicine, meetings, conventions and exhibitions across the three regions, according to the Beijing tourism commission.

Ctrip has responded to the change with the launch of a sixday tour of Beijing and Hebei's Chengde.

Airport pickup and delivery services are also available.

As a result, visitors will be able to take in all the major landmarks and tourism hot spots - including Tiananmen Square, the Badaling section of the Great Wall, the Bird's Nest stadium and Chengde Mountain Resort.

China International Travel Service has also rolled out more than 20 products for international travelers eligible for the new policy.

Arrangements have been made for Russian travelers to observe traditional Chinese medicine, while visits to hutong and paper-cutting events have been prepared for visitors from North America, according to the Beijing-based travel service company.

Some products will feature different themes on a daily basis. The company said these would include watching art performances at the National Center for the Performing Arts, learning traditional arts or dining at distinctive restaurants.

"The previous 72-hour policy allowed visitors to experience major scenic spots, while the 144-hour will make experiencing the Chinese lifestyle possible," said Wu Zheng, general manager of the destination promotion center with the China International Travel Service's head office.

The policy will save tourists a considerable amount of money that was previously needed for the visa application process, Wu said.

He added that there had been a strongly positive response to the company's products after the change in policy.

"We hope international tourists have more opportunities to enjoy an in-depth tour of Chinese culture," he said.

The tourism website Aoyou, operated by the China Youth Travel Service, has launched a one-day card that offers access to 158 scenic spots across the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area.

Products targeting the new policy, like a four-day tour of Beijing, are also available on Aoyou.

"The products take into account the time inbound tourists need to check into a hotel, get over their jet lag and adapt to the new environment," said Xu Xiaolei, chief brand officer for China Youth Travel Service.

Foreign language services could also be offered, based on specific customer needs, Xu added.

At the same time, Beijing Capital International Airport is trying to cooperate with well-known domestic travel service providers to come up with tailored trips ranging from one to six days.

"The airport can keep luggage for those travelers for 144 hours for free," said Meng Xianwei, general manager of the aviation business department of the airport.

Temporary entry points and tag systems were added to Beijing airport's Terminal 2 and 3 to make things easier for inbound tourists.

Air China International Corp said it would offer information about relevant connecting flights and discounted tickets for travelers.

China Daily

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