China has tightened visa rules for visitors, adding requirements for a letter of invitation and proof of hotel reservations in a move that could slow its push to become the world’s biggest tourism destination.
Travelers applying for tourist visas, must submit a letter from an “authorized tourism unit,” company or person inviting them to China, along with a photocopy of their round-trip ticket and hotel reservation, according to rules posted on the website of China’s embassy in the U.S.
The rule changes come after Chinese authorities have put foreigners’ status in the country under greater scrutiny and sought to clamp down on people entering the country illegally. The World Tourism Organization has predicted that China may become the world’s biggest destination for tourists by 2015.
“If implemented strictly, the new requirements could have an impact on the number of foreign tourists” and revenue among travel agencies, said Zhang Lu, a Shanghai-based analyst at Capital Securities Corp. China International Travel Service Corp., the country’s biggest tourism company by market value, will “certainly be affected,” she said.
The new visa materials were not demanded before Aug. 1, according to visa.ywpw.com, a Texas-based agency that helps customers obtain visas to China. China’s embassies and consulates in countries including Japan, Thailand and New Zealand also posted the new rules on their websites.
China overtook Spain in 2010 to become the world’s third-biggest tourist draw, with 55.7 million visitors that year, behind only France and the U.S., according to data from the World Bank. That’s more than double number of tourist arrivals in 1999, when China saw 27 million visitors.
The Foreign Ministry didn’t respond to faxed questions seeking comment today.
In mid-May, Beijing began a 100-day campaign aimed at cracking down on foreigners working or living in the country without proper documentation.
The National People’s Congress, the country’s legislature, approved a new law June 30 that increased the penalty for illegally entering or working in the country. In a blog post in May, a top host for China’s state-owned national television station, Yang Rui, said Chinese police should focus on Sanlitun and another Beijing neighborhood, Wudaokou, to “arrest foreign thugs and protect innocent girls.”