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The general population often make fun of public servants. Think of some negative sentiment–time wasters, pen pushers, etc.–and it will often be tagged onto those who do the bidding of government. I like to think that I can think, so I am wondering why the minds of some of our public servants and the politicians they serve don’t seem to want to do any yoga.

Jamaica’s Minster of Tourism has just announced that soon Chinese tourists will be able to visit our sun-soaked isle, and stay for 30 days without visas. The rationale given included:

  • China’s “potential for growth as a tourism source market for Jamaica”.

China is now the largest spender in international tourism, but Jamaica has had difficulty in achieving “substantial growth in Chinese arrivals, as many Chinese citizens have had to travel great distances simply to obtain a visa from the Jamaican Embassy in Beijing“. Wait a minute! This is the 21st century: information superhighway and all that. Why are we forcing Chinese people to travel to Beijing?130517141050-china-tourists-hong-kong-camera-story-top

Yes, it’s common sometimes to have to go in person to a consular office. But, other options exist, such as visa applications by mail or over the Internet. The actual visa may still be an endorsement in the passport or may take the form of a document or an electronic record of the authorisation, which the applicant can print before leaving home and produce on entry to the host country. Why can’t we have that option? Or, are we just wanting to do all we can for Chinese potential visitors?

The US State Department gave me the pleasure of spending 90 minutes recently on a computer to renew my visa, and uploading the picture alone took a good 15 minutes, including having it rejected for being too dark (hey, my skin is not pale). Why deny potential tourists such pleasures? Or, just let them boost internal travel in China.

Or, we could treat China like little Andorra (population 78,000), and let them get visas at the port of entry. True, all of Andorra could fit into Jamaica and not be noticed, but I suspect a worry about a tidal wave from the ripple of 1 billion Chinese people may be lurking around.

I honestly don’t care if visitors to Jamaica come from Timbuktu, or Wanganui, or Banjul. But, I’d like to think that government moves in a way that seems neutral and logical to the outsider and the insider of the country. Is it just the potential foreign exchange rather than the cultural exchange? Jamaica had already done the same for Russia. Jamaica’s embassy in Moscow is a nice little trek across the steppes from Siberia. So, the distance and hardship argument could apply there, too.

Interestingly, countries that are deemed ‘friendly’, such as those in the British Commonwealth, usually have no need for visas to visit Jamaica. That is, with the exception of Nigeria. I can only wonder why Jamaica would mete out such discrimination to our fellow Commonwealth brethren 🙂

So, it’s all about the Benjamins, baby. China, in 2013, recorded 72.5 million outbound trips for the first three-quarters of 2013. Chinese tourists spent US$102 billion abroad in 2012. Only 2,420 Chinese tourists visited Jamaica last year. What should yuan do?

 

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