Visa deal relaxes tour group itineraries

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 December, 2011, 12:00am


Foreign tourists joining Guangdong-bound tours in Hong Kong on free six-day visas will enjoy more flexible itineraries from April under cross-border agreements signed yesterday.

At the moment, tour groups of three to 40 tourists can get the visas within hours of departure for trips lasting up to 144 hours from Hong Kong to all 21 cities in Guangdong. But travel agencies have to nominate the departure city - the last destination before returning to Hong Kong.

This requirement will be waived under the eighth supplement of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, signed yesterday. The mainland authorities said they would also consider lowering the minimum allowable size of the groups.

The travel trade welcomed the changes. 'The new measures can provide more flexibility for multi-destination trips in the area and we will continue to negotiate with the central government to lower the minimum size of tour groups to two people,' a Tourism Commission spokeswoman said.

Travel Industry Council chairman Michael Wu Siu-ieng said it would allow greater flexibility for trips to several cities.

'Say, if we fail to buy train tickets from Zhongshan to Hong Kong, we can opt to return via Guangzhou,' he said. 'If the tour-size threshold can be lowered to two people, we may attract more individual tourists, couples or those travelling with a companion to join Guangdong-bound tours of one to two days in Hong Kong.'

Wu said the visa had proved popular with foreign tourists on tour groups as it was free and quick to obtain via local travel agencies.

In contrast, foreigners seeking individual China visas from the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong have to pay visa fees and wait several days.

The measures will take effect on April 1.