China Issues Warning To Tourists Amid Confusion Over Visas To Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan: Litany Of Abuses Continues, Even Under EXPO 2017 Spotlight

State media reported that stopovers visas were available to Chinese visitors to the Central Asian country, but officials say the travel permits have yet to be offered.

China has told its citizens travelling to Kazakhstan they must have a proper visa amid confusion over the paperwork needed to visit the Central Asian country, state media reported.

The Kazakh authorities announced earlier this month that Chinese visitors stopping over in the cities of Almaty and Astana would be granted a 72-hour transit visa, provided they could prove they had tickets to fly out of the country within three days.

The offer was made to boost the numbers of Chinese tourists visiting the country between June 10 and September 10 when Kazakhstan is hosting Expo 2017 in the capital Astana, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

However, the Chinese embassy in Astana has now issued a notice saying Chinese visitors must ensure they have a visa before visiting the country.

“After our verifications with the Kazakhstan foreign ministry, the announced measures [of transit visa] have yet to be implemented,” the embassy said in the statement.

Chinese citizens staying in Kazakhstan, or stopping over, must obtain a visa to avoid “illegal entry and unnecessary financial losses”, the statement added.

China has close political ties with Kazakhstan, but the level of Chinese tourism to the Central Asian nation is very limited.

President Xi Jinping has met his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev 16 times, but only about 250,000 Chinese tourists visited Kazakhstan last year.

The figure constitutes about 0.2 per cent of the total number of Chinese tourists travelling abroad in 2016.

Kazakhstan, which covers an area over three times larger than Turkey but with a population of only 18 million, has been strict in granting business or tourist visa to Chinese citizens.

The country only agreed to allow Chinese tour group visas last year and individual tourist visas are not given to Chinese passport holders.

As a result, the promised 72-hour transit visa for Chinese tourists was seen as a significant relaxation of the rules.

Roza Assanbayeva, the president of the Kazakhstan Tourist Association, had predicted the visa policy was expected to bring 100,000 more Chinese tourists into Kazakhstan.

Luo Di, a travel agency manager based in Beijing who has been organising Chinese tourists travel abroad for nine years, said it was doubtful more relaxed visa rules would see visitors from the mainland flocking to Kazakhstan.

“For Chinese, Kazakhstan is a unfamiliar country. The top choices are Southeast Asia, South Korea and Japan,” he said.

China forecast last year that more than 350,000 Chinese tourists would visit Kazakhstan for the international Expo event this summer. The theme of the exhibition is “Future Energy”.

The number of Chinese tourists to Kazakhstan has been increasing in recent years, but the scale is still very small, Dai Bing, the president of the China Tourism Academy, said in September last year.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: