Colombia: visas free for China visitors

Updated: 2015-03-23 03:55

By Zhang Yuchen in Beijing(China Daily Latin America)

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<BR>Colombia: visas free for China visitors

A view of the Colombian city of Cartagena. Provided to China Daily

Colombia will soon put in place a new visa policy for Chinese tourists wishing to travel to the South American country, said the Embassy of Colombia in Beijing.

Under the new policy, Chinese tourists will enjoy visa-free entry to Colombia if the applicant has first obtained a visa from the US, any country in Europe's Schengen zone, or Canada. The traveler, however, must fly directly to Colombia, said Alejandra Roa Valencia, commercial director of ProColombia, the entity that promotes international tourism, foreign investment and non-traditional exports in Colombia.

The new visa policy will make the country – joining Mexico, Peru and Costa Rica – the fourth with similar visa policies in Latin America toward China, since the US and China announced a 10-year visa at the APEC meeting last November in Beijing.

At the time of the signing of the US-China visa expansion, around 12 countries accepted Chinese visitors visa-free who held visas from the US.

In 2014, the Colombian embassy issued nearly 10,000 visas to Chinese citizens, most of which were business visas. In 2013, the number of successful visa applicants was around 5,000.

"We can see a huge increase of the traveling record, but still most of them are for business. We are hoping to attract more Chinese tourists to Colombia," said Valencia.

According to a report released by the GBTA Foundation, China will soon overtake the US as the world's top business travel market, perhaps by 2017.

The new agreement has already been signed between China and Colombia, though a lot of preparation work has to be done before its implementation in two months.

"Hiring or training the tour guides and hotel staff speaking Mandarin and the buildings renewed with direction signs in Chinese, and even the food, we have a lot of work to do before the expecting Chinese tourists actually arrive," said Carmenza Jaramillo, the ambassador of Colombia in Beijing.

The ideal itinerary for a Chinese traveler to Colombia might involve a tour package to include several Latin American countries in a sequence, such as spending separate days in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, or so.

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Colombia. China has strong economic ties to Colombia because of its import of Colombian products, such as coffee and wood. Both countries signed an agreement this year in order to promote tourism.

Right now there are about five Chinese travel agents officially authorized or registered at the embassy for the right to arrange and operate tours in the region, said Melissa Zhang, of Beijing Across Latin America Business Co Ltd.