The European Union is planning to boost visitor arrivals from China by developing “flexible rules” for visa applications, a senior official has revealed.
Antonio Tajani, Vice President of the European Commission, was reported telling a press conference in Beijing on Friday that the plans for the new rules are still being drawn up, but the aim is to ease the visa application process for mainland Chinese tourists.
“It is very important for the EU to have more Chinese visitors,” Tajani was quoted saying by China’s Xinhua news agency, noting that the eurozone crisis increased the importance of Chinese visitors.
He admitted however, that the current visa application process for Chinese citizens is “very time-consuming”, opening the possibility that the EU may introduce an electronic visa system in future.
While details of the new visa processes were not revealed, Tajani said the EU hoped to roll out the new policy in November this year. He also proposed a pilot visa project to encourage more Chinese tourists to visit the EU during the 2015 Expo in Milan. The 2010 Shanghai World Expo was extremely popular, attracting an estimated 73 million over five months.
Citing the benefits of attracting more Chinese tourists, Tajani noted that they have “a lot of money and a lot of time”. The first statement is certainly true; China is now the highest spending outbound tourism market in the world, with the country’s citizens spending US$102 billion in overseas markets in 2012 – 40% more than in 2011.