Free Passage - Gov't waives visas for Chinese nationals
Government, China in discussions to lift visa restriction on J’cans
THE Jamaican Government has conditionally waived visa requirements for tourists from China travelling to the island as it moves to boost visitor arrivals from that Asian country.
The announcement came yesterday from Tourism and Entertainment Minister Wykeham McNeill during the post-Cabinet press briefing. It came a day after Government gave the clearest indication yet that the Chinese will get the go ahead to develop a trans-shipment port on the Goat Islands, despite protests.
"In our efforts to ease the difficulties experienced while harnessing the market potential, Cabinet has approved the conditional waiver of visa requirements for nationals of the People's Republic of China who travel to Jamaica for tourism purposes for 30 days or less," McNeill said.
What now obtains is that, in many cases, Chinese citizens have to fly long distances to the Jamaican embassy in Beijing to apply for a visa. That, according to McNeill, has thwarted their efforts to travel to the island.
Some 2,420 visitors arrived here from China last year, a 15 per cent increase when compared to 2012. There was an increase of 24 per cent in 2012 over 2011.
In 2012, Chinese nationals spent US$102 billion on outbound travel, helping the country earn the classification as the leading tourism source market in the world.
"For many years we have recognised China's potential for growth as a tourism source market for Jamaica but have also remained cognisant of the difficulties entailed in developing this important market. Up to now, it has been difficult to achieve substantial growth in Chinese arrivals as many Chinese have had to travel great distances simply to obtain a Jamaican visa in Beijing," Information Minister Sandrea Falconer added.
The visa waiver will come in effect in "a few weeks", after the ministries of foreign affairs and national security, through the Passport and Immigration and Citizenship Agency, iron out the diplomatic details.
On the flip side, the Government is working to have visa restrictions for Jamaicans travelling to China waived, McNeill said.
Yesterday's waiver announcement comes ahead of the Shanghai Trade Show in April, which McNeill and Director of Tourism John Lynch will attend to help strengthen the marketing efforts of the Jamaica Tourist Board and continue discussions on developing airlift arrangements from the region.
Jamaica has previously relaxed visa requirements for nationals of Colombia, Panama, Venezuela, Russia, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, and according to McNeill, the country's tourism earnings have been boosted as a result.