MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Philippines was added to a growing list of countries who can travel to Hainan Island, China’s “Hawaii” without a need for a visa, according to a report from Bloomberg.
The move is part of China’s international tourism push. (READ: China ‘committed’ to ease tourist visas for Filipinos)
The new policy will start in May and allow travellers from 59 countries to visit Hainan for 30 days visa free, said Qu Yunhai, deputy director of the State Immigration Administration at a press conference in Beijing.
The new rule will give Hainan less stringent visa requirements than in the rest of China, where travellers have to apply for visas through Chinese consulates abroad.
The policy “embodies our resolve and approach to move one step further to opening to the outside world,” Qu said.
The liberalization comes as part of a package of reforms to remake the island as a free trade zone and a beacon of openness for China.
Yan Xu, chief for International Relations Division of the China National Tourism Administration, told visiting Filipino journalists in July 2017 that Hainan Airlines would soon fly straight from the province to Manila.
On Monday, China announced it would allow Hainan to develop horse racing and explore opening new types of lotteries connected to sports and international competitions.
Beijing also said it wants to position Hainan as a “centre of international tourism consumption”, a goal which has faced slow progress despite sandy beaches and massive spending on plush resorts.
The province attracted fewer than a million foreign visitors in 2016 – compared with over seven million in Thailand’s Phuket, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News.
The new policy is being implemented by China’s State Immigration Administration, a new agency formed during a government shuffle announced in March.
Previously, some international visitors to the island could avoid China’s visa requirements if they were on a shorter trip and travelling as part of a tour group. – Agence France Presse/Rappler.com
Panorama of the city from the park Luhuitou from Shutterstock
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