|Tourists have a local-style breakfast during a 72-hour visa-free stay in Guangzhou in August. From August through October, more than 500 foreign visitors had taken advantage of the policy. Qiao Junwei / For China Daily|
Guangzhou has seen a steady rise in the number of airline passengers who availed of the city's 72-hour visa-free transit policy since it was launched on Aug 1.
Australia accounts for the largest number, according to the exit-entry authority of the Baiyun district where the airport is located.
By Oct 29, 534 foreign visitors had enjoyed a 72-hour visa-free stay in the capital of South China's Guangdong province. The number of users climbed from 96 in August to 166 in September, an increase of 73 percent.
The exit-entry authority of Baiyun district received an average of 10 requests for a 72-hour visa-free stay every day in October.
Altogether, 239 Australian passengers have had a 72-hour visa-free stopover in Guangzhou since August, almost half of the total number of foreign visitors benefiting from the new visa policy, said Zhang Rui, a media officer from the exit-entry authority of Baiyun district.
The policy is also popular among tourists from the US, Canada, Russia and New Zealand, Zhang said.
China Southern Airlines, the major carrier based at the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, launched an Airbus A380 service to Sydney and a Boeing 787 Dreamliner service to Auckland, New Zealand, last week. The new services are expected to reinforce the "Canton Route", an air bridge connecting Europe, Asia and Australia and attract more airline passengers from the Oceania region to make a stopover in Guangzhou.
Christine O'Maley, a Sydney-based public relations executive for the airline, hopes that Guangzhou will become the next hotspot for stopovers between Oceania and Europe.
"Australians often fly to the UK to visit friends and family. It's a long flight of 24 hours so most passengers will choose to make a stopover to have a rest and explore a new city," O'Maley said.
"Popular stopover choices have been Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok. And Dubai has become a new favorite as Emirates has vigorously tapped the market in Australia in recent years.
"We are strengthening promotions of China Southern Airlines and Guangzhou's visa-free transit policy in Australia," added the PR executive, who accompanied 11 journalists from major media outlets in Australia and New Zealand on their weekend trip to Guangzhou.
The visitors from Oceania enjoyed a two-day tour of the city. They tasted dim sum, visited historic sites, including the Chen Clan Academy and the Museum of the Nanyue King Mausoleum, soaked in the atmosphere at the city's new landmark Canton Tower and strolled through markets and parks.
Adrian Schofield from Aviation Week based in New Zealand was amazed by Guangzhou and thinks it's a pity that not many New Zealanders know about the city or the 72-hour visa-free transit policy.
"China Southern Airlines' Boeing 787 service to Auckland is New Zealand's first Boeing 787 service, which will effectively enhance the airline company's publicity in the country and the company can help promote the Chinese city and the visa policy to New Zealanders," Schofield said.
Tourist agencies in Guangdong province expected the 72-hour visa-free policy to spur inbound tourism, but they haven't seen a significant growth in the number of foreign visitors in the past three months.
Fang Fang, vice-general manager of the inbound tourism department of GZL International Travel Service, a major agency in the province, said that the agency has received around 80 foreign tourists who made a stopover in Guangzhou on a 72-hour visa-free transit since Aug 1. Only a few of them took advantage of the visa policy's ability for tourists to travel to other cities in Guangdong province.
"The tourism authority and China Southern Airlines should make good use of the data they've collected and visit those big international transit passenger origins to host promotional events," the manager said.
Beijing and Shanghai introduced the visa-free policy in January. Chengdu in Sichuan province offered the same visa-free transit in September, and Chongqing will carry it out from November.