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By ExpatBriefing.com Editorial
19 March, 2014
South Korea has relaxed visa rules in a bid to entice high-spending Chinese visitors, as part of a trend that has seen 20 countries take steps to make it easier for wealthy Chinese to travel internationally.
The "Korea Priority Card" is a five-year multiple-entry visa that also offers fast-track processing through immigration controls. It is available to applicants who have spent at least USD30,000 in Korea in the past five years, and who own a platinum credit card and have a minimum deposit of USD46,700 in a designated bank. Although not confined to visitors from China, it is thought that Chinese tourists will be the main beneficiaries.
Countries that have eased application processes for Chinese visitors in recent times include Australia, the United States, and members of the European Union. While visiting Beijing in October 2013, UK Chancellor George Osborne announced plans to allow Chinese to apply for visas using an EU Schengen visa form, as well as for a 24-hour "super priority" visa service, and for the expansion across China of a VIP mobile visa service for collecting forms and biometric data.
In November 2013, a summit between China and Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) countries in Bucharest led to agreement for Hungary to act as a "hub" for Chinese tourism in CEE. There have also been talks between Thailand and China also regarding a visa waiver program, although Thailand has said it needs to improve its tourist infrastructure first.
High Net Worth Chinese have also taken advantage of "Golden Visa" schemes in Portugal and Spain, with Portugal having run a special campaign in Macau, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.
Recent research by international real estate agency Savills has indicated that Chinese spending in London may increase by 141 percent over the next six years, to GBP500m (USD830m) per year. James Macdonald, who is head of research for Savills in China, observed that Chinese shoppers are now the biggest consumers of luxury goods in the world, when including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. He suggested that the trend was down to four factors: the relative strength of the renminbi, lower prices in overseas markets, increased overseas travel, and broader product range.
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