Good news for prospective travelers to China: Beijing has announced new relaxed visa requirements for 45 approved countries including Canada, the US, Australia, Russia, Japan, several Latin American countries and most of Europe.

The new regulations allow for extended layovers in Beijing for up to 72 hours of visa-free travel. By allowing visitors to de-plane with only a passport, this measure will certainly boost indivduals entering China and contribute to making tourism a “strategic pillar of the economy,” as the state-run China Daily said.

The regulations will take effect new years day 2013 and are predicted to increase traffic to China’s most tourist friendly city. Beijing currently receives about 5 million foreign visitors per year, and according to state media, each spends on average about $1000. According to Airports Council International, nearly 47 million people passed through Beijing International Airport between January and October, making it the second-busiest airport in the world after Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson.

Beijing Capital Airport is the busiest airport in Asia. To accommodate the growing traffic volume, Beijing Capital added the enormous Terminal 3 in 2008 in time for the Olympic Games, making it the second largest airport terminal in the world after Dubai International Airport's Terminal 3, and the fifth largest building in the world by area.

Beijing Capital Airport is the busiest airport in Asia. To accommodate the growing traffic volume, Beijing Capital added the enormous International Terminal 3 in 2008 in time for the Olympic Games, making it the second largest airport terminal in the world after Dubai International Airport’s Terminal 3, and the fifth largest building in the world by area.

As a response to the new regualtions, the UK has said it will reconsider it’s visa procedures for Chinese tourists. Home Secretary Theresa May is set to speak out about simplifying visa rules on Chinese visitors to protect tourism and university funding. A leaked letter from Mrs May’s office this year revealed that the issue had reached the top of government, with the Prime Minister asking questions about how to boost Chinese visits. Among the concerns was that Chinese tourists and businesspeople need one visa to visit 25 EU nations, but a separate one to enter Britain — putting off many visitors from coming to London. It seems various other western countries are also doing all they can to attract the newly mobile and curious Chinese tourist population.

*A Side Note: Among the countries not granted approval in the Chinese regualtions is Norway. This appears to be the latest in a string of punishments for the Nordic country since it awarded a jailed Chinese dissident, Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel peace prize in 2010. When asked why Norway was left off the list, Wang Qin, a senior official at the Beijing government travel administration, indirectly responded by saying that some countries were not eligible because their citizens or government were “of low-quality” and “badly behaved”.

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