IN AN attempt to boost its share of the China outbound market, Spain is planning to introduce a simplified visa system for Chinese nationals. It will also continue to encourage airlines to launch more direct flights between the two nations.
Speaking at the recent 6th Spain-China Forum in Barcelona, Joan Mesquida, Spain’s Secretary of State for Tourism, said the plan was to follow a visa model being used for the Russian market, which resulted in the number of Russian arrivals increasing by 40 per cent last year to 600,000. The number is expected to soar by another 50 per cent in 2011.
Introducing the visa system in China will involve increased staff count, sub-contracting part of the emissary work to private companies, and extending visa periods beyond the duration of a specific journey, said Mesquida.
Last year, Spain received 102,000 Chinese visitors, but most of these came via other European Union countries. Only 42,000 were issued with visas by Spanish consulates. Miguel Sebastian, Spain’s Minister for Industry and Tourism, said the target was to reach one million Chinese visitors by 2020.
Although France is the destination most visited by Chinese travellers in Europe, Spain is the most popular for leisure trips. However, Spain just has five direct services to China a week, compared to 63 a week for France. The Spanish government is in contact with airlines to encourage more links.
Mesquida said the tourism ministry was also looking at sporting and gastronomic links to promote tourism (TTG Asia e-Daily, March 4). His department is pushing for a possible match between the Spanish and Chinese national football teams, while leading Spanish football club Real Madrid is already scheduled to go on a pre-season tour of China in early August.