|Visa policy to lure extra 2m overseas tourists|
Beijing officials are expecting at least 2 million more overseas visitors to the capital next year as a result of their decision to ease visa requirements for foreigners from Jan 1.
The new policy, which will permit visitors from 45 countries to spend 72 hours in the city without a visa, is aimed at attracting more airport transit passengers, according to Wang Yue, deputy director of the Beijing Tourism Development Committee.
"Last year, we had 5 million transit passengers coming into Beijing, and they simply went through the airport without entering the city.
"Our research shows that at least half of them would have liked to leave the terminal and tour the city, but the visa policy in the past blocked them from doing that," Wang said.
The new policy is expected to increase hotel bookings, as well as boost restaurant and shopping income.
Wang said city tourism officials will be working hard to make sure what's on offer will appeal to the new generation of short-term foreign visitors.
To make it easier for them to explore the city, information desks have already been established around the capital as well as at the airport. More printed information, including travel directions to famous places of interest will be available on flights, Wang said.
Yang Yang, general manager of Spring Tour Beijing, said his agent is about to offer two- to three-day visitor packages.
"But we'll have to wait and see what kind of places these transit passengers want to visit during such a brief stay, and what future confirmation times are likely to be," he added.
Tourism officials have revealed details of a special "countdown ceremony" being planned to take place at the capital's Summer Palace, considered the largest and best-preserved imperial garden in China, to celebrate the arrival of 2013 on the evening of Dec 31.
The ceremony, starting at 10:30 pm, will feature various performers and be capped with a huge fireworks display at midnight, Wang said.
"It's a new idea to celebrate with a New Year countdown party in the imperial garden.
"But it's the perfect chance to introduce Beijing's tourism and cultural resources to the world, especially as these new visa regulations come into force."
Wang said compared with other international tourist destination cities, Beijing still has work to do to fully develop its tourism resources and strengthen its image.
New Year's Eve countdown celebrations have become popular in many cities, attracting huge tourism numbers around the holiday season.