BEIJING, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- Beijing will start a 72-hour visa-free stay policy for citizens of 45 countries to boost tourism, municipal authorities said Wednesday.
From Jan. 1, 2013, tourists holding third country visas and plane tickets can apply for a transit without visa (TWOV) in the capital city at Beijing Capital International Airport, said Ji Lixia, assistant director of the Beijing General Station of Exit and Entry Frontier Inspection.
Ji made the announcement at a press conference held by the Beijing municipal government.
The 45 countries were listed in accordance with the numbers of inbound overnight visitors in Beijing from 2009 to 2011.
"Foreign visitors must be reminded that they are not permitted to leave Beijing to other Chinese cities during the 72 hours, and have to depart from Beijing," Ji said.
According to Ji, visitors have to register at a police station with their visas within 24 hours of their arrival.
"A relaxed visa policy is common practice to boost the inbound tourist market," said Wang Yue, deputy director with Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism Development.
The current number of foreign visitors to Beijing is 5 million per year. The number is expected to double in three years after the TWOV policy comes into effect, the commission predicted.
"On average, overseas visitors always stay in Beijing for three days and four nights, and their personal spending is about 1,000 U.S. dollars, twice the amount spent by domestic visitors," Wang said.
Xu Jianqiang, chief economist of Air China, said Tokyo and Seoul are two major transfer hubs of Asia but believed more foreign visitors will go sightseeing and hold business events in Beijing.
International airlines will increase the number of connecting flights stopping in Beijing and the city will serve as a transfer hub for more passengers, Xu said.
Beijing will develop tourism products targeting visitors who will stay two or three days in the city, and build new tax-free shops in the airport to attract more foreign consumers.