While noting that the British Virgin Islands (BVI) has applied for permission to sell its tourism product in the Chinese market, the BVI government said it is looking to remove visa restrictions for Chinese nationals seeking to enter its shores.
The reasons include a request from Chinese officials who visited the territory recently, said Permanent Secretary in the Premier’s Office Brodrick Penn.
He said other Caribbean destinations have allowed visa-free entry for Chinese, adding that China is the largest tourism source market in the world.
“According to the World Tourism Organisation just last year the mainland China had 120 million trips overseas [and] spent $215 billion on holidays abroad. Already, many of the competing jurisdictions for us in the Caribbean – including Cuba, Bahamas, Jamaica; they are capitalising on this phenomenon and they’ve gone full out to be more attractive for Chinese tourists – sometimes even offering things like visa access.”
“Interestingly, just the other day, we had a delegation here from China and it’s one of the first things they asked us about – visa-free access. So that’s something we’re exploring as a government,” Penn further said.
China (except Hong Kong) is among 92 countries whose nationals require visas to enter the BVI.
However, based on a policy implemented last year, persons from a number of those countries no longer need to have a BVI visa if they hold a United States, Canadian or United Kingdom visa.
Penn stated that, in an effort to boost the number of Chinese who visit, the BVI also applied for ‘approved destination status’ in China.
He explained that the status allows countries like the BVI to promote their tourism product in the Chinese market.
“I think there are about 146 destinations that are approved to have this status. If you’re going to be a serious player in the Chinese market, you have to have this status… To be able to sell tours into China, you are going to have to be an approved jurisdiction, and this is something that we are vigorously pursuing and have had good indication that it’s a status that we are going to achieve,” Penn further said at a forum hosted recently by MWM Business Network.
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