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S. Africa sets up more visa centers in China to woo tourists: minister

CAPE TOWN, May 18 (Xinhua) -- South Africa has set up five additional visa centers in China in a bid to attract more Chinese tourists, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Wednesday.

"We now have established centers in Wuhan, Xi'an, Shenyang, Hangzhou and Jinan. This brings to nine the total number of visa facilitation centers in China," Gigaba told the Cape Town Press Club.

He voiced belief that these new visa application centers will "help us to cater to the growing demand while making application processes easier for applicants".

Recently, South Africa has seen an increase in application volumes from China.

Tourist arrivals from China in January this year nearly doubled compared to January 2015, South Africa's Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom said earlier this month.

In China, South Africa has seen the success of the decision to allow travel agencies to apply for visas on behalf of travellers, Hanekom said.

This was one of the moves by South Africa to ease visa regulations. Previously, tourists had to apply for visas in person.

Strict visa regulations introduced in 2014 led to a sharp decline in tourist arrivals in South Africa last year.

This prompted Gigaba to announce a 10-year multiple entry visa for BRICS partners last year. Similarly, earlier this year, the South African government approved the granting of 10-year multiple entry visas to business and academics from Africa.

"We will, this year, dedicate our energies to concluding bilateral agreements with our sister countries in the continent on issues related to easing of travel," Gigaba said on Wednesday.

The World Travel and Tourism Council estimates that tourism will earn 120 billion rand (about 7.7 billion U.S. dollars) in export earnings, and contribute more than 25 billion dollars to the South African economy this year.

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