Chinese Visa Restrictions Relaxed for Cruise Operators

From March, Chinese nationals traveling on cruises to Japan began to enjoy visa-free entry, which could be a huge positive push for Chinese passenger sourcing.

As of mid-April, a number of ships had been approved for visa-free travel including tonnage from Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Oceania, SkySea and Bohai Ferry. HNA has also received visa-free approval from Japan but is waiting on Chinese authorities before making it official.

Previously Japan visa approval required around seven working days and many documents including pay checks, bank statements, fixed deposits, proof of home ownership and more, making it cumbersome to apply. Passengers can now book a cruise three days out.

In Korea, the visa-free entry has been the norm since 2013 for most operators.

“This is a strong stimulant to the Chinese cruise market,” said Lei Yang, CEO of Ctrip’s cruise division.

“Together with the visa-free cruise travel to Korea, it is expected that over 90 percent of China homeported cruise routes to Japan and Korea will be visa free going forward. This represents the beginning of a visa-free era for China’s cruise market. In 2015, Ctrip expects to facilitate over 100,000 outbound cruise tourists from China, maintaining its number one position in China’s cruise industry.”

Visa issues may not be so eye catching in the western and developed nation, but it has plagued the increasingly affluent population in China who have a taste for travel.

According to the Henley Visa Restrictions Index for 2014, holders of Chinese passports are granted visa free/visa on arrival to 45 countries and territories mainly in developing nations and island tourist destinations. This is compared to visa free/visa on arrival to 174 countries and territories for U.S. passport holders.

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