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Visa-waiver boosts Hainan tourism
Author:Wang Guanqun  Source:English.news.cn   

BEIJING, June 18 -- After the easing of visa regulations for foreigners visiting the southern island of Hainan, the provincial government now plans more policies to promote its tourism industry.

Measures will include reducing the number of group travellers who can enjoy the visa-free policy from five people to two and increasing the number of visa-free countries from 21 to 26. Foreign travellers will also be able to stay longer on the island.

Early this morning, the Costa Classic cruise Ship arrived at Sanya's Phoenix International Cruise Terminal. It's the first ship to arrive since the new rules came into effect. Most of the visitors on board have come from visa-free countries. Almost all of them are from South Korea and Russia.

Sun Benyong, director of Sanya Friendship Int. Travel Agency, said, "Visitors are really happy when they arrive. The immigration procedure is much simpler. The whole process takes less than 20 minutes. "

Official figures show that more than 40 percent of foreign visitors have chosen the streamlined system to visit Hainan. The island's tourism authorities expect it to boost the number of overseas visitors to more than a million a year.

One of the key rules for the visa-free policy is stricter supervision of tourists by local travel agencies.

Li Tao, chief manager of Sanya Shengda Int. Travel Agency, said, "Some of the guests might go to other places after staying in Sanya for a few days. We have strict requirements for our travel guides. They have to know all the visitors' schedules and movements. Every travel agency has paid 8 hundred thousand even 15 million in deposits. It puts great pressure on us. "

Even though the management of travel agencies is more strict, local police and transport departments also have more responsibility ensuring the stability and safety of Hainan's tourism industry.

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