IT&CM China buyers from Europe, the Middle East and North America say China’s introduction of 144 hours of visa-free entry to Shanghai and the Yangtze River Delta is not working and the Chinese authorities should do more to streamline its implementation.
The buyers told TTGmice the terms and conditions of the programme need to be better communicated and applied. They said they were unable to enjoy the perk and had to pay between US$42 and US$120 for a visa, good for single or double entry and with validity ranging between three and six months.
Launched at the start of 2016, the six-day visa-free entry, offered at US$100 per traveller, is available on arrival to visitors from 51 countries, including the US, Russia, the UK, Australia, France and Japan, if passport-holders have third country visas and tickets to leave for another country or region.
The buyers said they knew about the visa-free entry but were not informed about it by the Chinese embassies in their respective cities.
Russian buyer, Agarval Radzhesh, president and CEO, Russian Business Travel & MICE Solutions, which organises medical association events, found out the hard way when he had to cancel, with no refund, his Aeroflot booking as he wanted to proceed to Madrid on his return and it was not allowed.
Radzhesh would like to see improvements to the programme which his Russian delegates could apply for to attend medical events in China as his clients have been intensifying co-operation with their Chinese counterparts.
German buyer, Reinhard Schmohl, general manager of re-travelling-events, said Shanghai, Beijing, Xi’an in combination with Hong Kong and Macau were popular for 10-day incentive programmes but should improvements to the 144-hour visa-free allowance not be made soon, clients might be inclined to move their events to other Asian destinations with easier visa-free access.
Mario Anthony, owner and managing director, Luxury Connections DMCC in Dubai, suggested allowing visa application to be made online.
Canadian buyer, Maria Ko, president and CEO of Mako Travel, however, regards the issue conservatively, saying she would always advise her clients to get a visa for peace of mind. “The 144-hour visa-free entry to Shanghai should work, but most outbound operators are unlikely to make use of it. What if a client falls sick and needs to extend his stay? It will be very hard for us to help him,” she said.