HAIKOU, July 4 (Xinhua) -- China will offer greater visa-free access for foreigners to its southernmost province of Hainan, in its latest move to support the construction of the Hainan pilot free trade zone (FTZ) and a free trade port with Chinese characteristics.
Under the new policy, foreigners are allowed to enter Hainan visa-free for a wider range of purposes including business, visit, visiting relatives, medical treatment, exhibition and sports, said Qu Yunhai, deputy head of the National Immigration Administration, at a press conference held Wednesday.
Apart from the visa-free policy, China will also facilitate foreigners to work in Hainan and provide more convenience for inbound tourists on cruises and yachts, as well as foreign patients and their families.
Group and individual tourists from 59 countries, including Russia, Britain, France, Germany, and the United States have been given visa-free access to Hainan on condition that they would book their tours through travel agencies since May 1, 2018.
As of June 30, 447,000 foreign tourists visited Hainan visa-free, up 18.8 percent year on year. The province raked in 767 million U.S. dollars in foreign exchange earnings from tourism last year, up 12.7 percent.
A total of 35 overseas air routes were launched or resumed over the past year, enhancing the connections between Hainan and the world.
The visa-free policy covering tourists from 59 countries has promoted the tourism of Hainan and is of great importance to the construction of the Hainan FTZ, said Jia Tongbin from the National Immigration Administration.
"The new policy is an effective supplement for the existing visa-free policy," said Fu Fenghua, an official with the Hainan provincial bureau of tourism, culture, radio, television and sports.
Fu said the cancellation of the travel agency restriction and the expansion of entry purposes will help change the tourist structure and boost inbound tourism in the long run.
The facilitation of entry and exit services for high-end tourism will bring an increasing number of tourists and encourage the development of new tourism types, he said.
Fu said Hainan will enrich its tourism products and better meet the demands of inbound tourists.
The island has become a popular tropical resort among overseas tourists in recent years, with the number of overseas tourists exceeding 1.2 million in 2018, up nearly 13 percent year on year.
The province aims to attract 2 million overseas tourists by 2020, according to a three-year action plan released last year.
Apart from benefits to the Hainan FTZ, the new policy also brings challenges to border inspection departments, said Yun Daxin, deputy head of the Haikou immigration inspection authority, adding they would provide more convenient and efficient customs clearance services for inbound and outbound passengers.
Hainan was approved in April 2018 to build a pilot FTZ, the 12th and largest among its peers, and explore the establishment of a free trade port with Chinese characteristics.