Tourists crowd a beach resort at the Dadonghai scenic spot in Sanya city, south China's Hainan province. Photo: AFP

Visa-free entry to the tropical island province of Hainan may become easier and available to more people for longer periods, China Daily has reported.

The Ministry of Public Security’s State Immigration Administration proposed on Wednesday that foreign visitors from 59 countries should no longer have to book their trips in advance through travel agencies, and should instead be able to apply for visa-free entry on their own or through organizations that invite them to Hainan.

Visits eligible for visa-free entry will be extended to include business and trade, family visits, medical treatment, exhibitions and sports competitions, according to draft changes released by the administration.

Jia Tongbin, the administration’s deputy director in charge of foreign visitors, said at a news conference in Beijing that visa-free stays longer than 30 days will eventually be permitted in order to meet Hainan’s needs for foreign expertise and to boost the local tourism sector.

The draft changes are in addition to Hainan’s existing visa-free entry policy, which took effect on May 1, 2018. That policy opened the province’s doors to tourists from 59 countries for stays of up to 30 days, on condition that they register with travel agencies.

“As the construction of the Hainan Free Trade Zone and free trade port are accelerating and Hainan is becoming more internationalized, there will be an increasing number of international tourists, entrepreneurs and scholars coming to Hainan for travel and investment in the future,” Jia said.

He added that Hainan received 447,000 foreign visitors from the 59 countries from May 1, 2018, to June 30 this year, an increase of 18.8% compared to the year-earlier period.

Three pilot policies will also be launched in August to make driving in Hainan more convenient for foreign visitors.

The first will enable visitors staying for short periods to apply for temporary driving permits without having to undergo health checks.

The second will extend the validity period of temporary driving permits for foreigners from three months to a maximum of one year, and the third will make applying for driving permits easier by setting up service centers at ports, airports and other ports of entry along with offering online services.

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