Local travel agencies are seeing an increasing number of residents ask about tours to the United States after reports that the U.S. Government is relaxing visa application requirements for Chinese, according to a report yesterday by Shenzhen Economic Daily.
The U.S. ambassador to China, Gary Locke, announced Thursday that under a pilot program starting today, qualified non-immigrant Chinese applicants to the United States can renew their visas without undergoing another interview if their visas expired less than 48 months ago.
The new initiative includes several types of visas: B (temporary visitors for business and pleasure), C1 (transit), F (students), J (exchange visitors) and other categories. The initiative covers 95 percent of the total visas issued by the U.S. embassy and consulates across China, according to Locke.
The previous policy only allowed an interview waiver within 12 months of the expiration date.
Huang Bilin, manager of the American and European departments of the Shenzhen Comfort Travel Service, said package tours to the United States have been popular with local residents. The past two years saw robust demand for tours during summer breaks.
Huang predicted a peak of U.S. tours would occur during the summer break this year, following the relaxed visa policy.
The Comfort Travel Service has started actively contacting travel services in the United States to plan new tour products, Huang said.
Wu Bin, deputy head of the city’s tourism association, said Shenzhen ranks second in Guangdong Province, after Guangzhou, the provincial capital, in the number of tourists to the United States, including participants in package and self-guided tours.
A Shenzhen woman, Li, said that after learning of the relaxed visa policy, she plans to travel to the United States with friends during this year’s National Day holiday in October. Li said Chinese can buy many high-quality products in the United States at lower costs than found in China.
The United States has stepped up its efforts to promote tourism from China in the past two years, according to the Shenzhen China International Travel Service.
Package tours to the United States mainly focus on sightseeing. A 15-day package tour costs more than 20,000 yuan (US$3,180) to cover the west and east coasts, and Hawaii, the newspaper said.
A six-day package tour to Hawaii costs about 12,000 yuan, according to local travel agencies.
Chinese tourists to the United States spend an average of more than US$6,000 per trip, compared with about US$4,000 spent by other international travelers in the country, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Commerce.
(By Martin Li)