Over the last week there have been serious issues for customers travelling into China or hoping to on the 144 Hour visa waiver. Passengers who have checked with the embassy before travel and met the criteria to travel have still been turned away and seemingly randomly.
Couples, Families and groups have been split up, People have lost money on Hotels, Tours and Onward arrangements leaving them distressed and angry at the way they were treated.
Despite liaising with the Chinese Government ABTA do not seem to be able to get a straight answer from them as to the reason so many were turned away and it definitely has not done the Chinese Tourist Industry any favours.
There has been much speculation on Social Media about having Turkish and Arabian stamps in the passports but having said that some people who have the stamps have been allowed entry.
On Top of this the ones who were allowed to enter faced long tiring queues of up to 4-5 hours to get the waived processed often missing transfers that were pre-booked and could only wait for 1-2 hours before having to move on to other commitments.
None of this was the fault of the passengers or indeed us as Agents booking them but it left people having to pay for onward travel to get home or to move on to other countries to catch cruise ships etc.
I have to say I was very proud of our company and my colleagues who rose to the challenge sorting out alternate flights and Hotels and arranging for customers to join their cruises on a later date. Contacting Hotels, Tour companies and Transfer firms to try and recoup money for those out of pocket and as well as helping our own customers, helping the customers of other agents who had been unable to contact them. Well done Cruise.co.uk.
On a more serious note anyone who is planning a trip to China and was hoping to use the 144 Hour Visa Waiver I would definitely consider getting a Full Visa. I know that this is an expense and you have to visit a visa centre to get it processed but for the peace of mind of knowing you will not have your holiday ruined it is worth it.
China really does need to get its act together. Royal Caribbean has just announced their new Oasis Class ship Wonder of the Seas will be sailing out of Shanghai, but will it get European and America Guests if they fear they may not be able to enter the country or have to pay large visas fees to do so? Surely with their technology, they could roll out an electronic visa waiver scheme like the USA and Canada where customers can pay a small fee and have the peace of mind that they can do it online and have it authorised before they arrive.
What are your thoughts?