Furry Mascots Spotlight New “72-Hour” Rule For U.S. Travelers
While one may not normally associate a stage full of martial-arts trained pandas with progress in easing visa application complications between the United States and China, last Thursday saw a troupe of furry mascots performing in front of a crowd at New York’s Grand Central Station in order to promote Beijing’s new “72-hour” visa-free travel policy for U.S. citizens.
At the event, loud techno music utilizing Chinese-influenced chord progressions echoed off the chandeliered ceilings of the station’s Vanderbilt Hall for a panda-filled public martial arts stage show. Strategically placed in between the spectacular flashing colored lights, acrobatics, and slightly rumpled kung fu panda costumes were emphatic speeches by representatives of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism Development, promoting a new tourist visa policy for the city of Beijing that allows citizens from the United States and 44 other countries to stay in Beijing for up to three days without a visa.
So, what exactly do pandas have to do with visas? Not much, in the words of representative Lei Yu, who told Jing Daily, “If they just sent a number of officials standing there reciting the policy, no one would come.” Smiling, he added, “We have to rely on the pandas.”
Visas policy an increasingly important issue for negotiation between China and other countries in order to boost tourism revenue. While some countries such as the United States have been making efforts to ease strict visa requirements for Chinese visitors in order to encourage a greater influx of tourism dollars from the world’s largest bloc of international travelers, other places such as London have had a notoriously difficult time attracting tourists because of harsh visa procedures for Chinese citizens.
If you missed out on the panda spectacular, look below for photos from the event.
(Photos by Justin Warsh)