China has named New Zealand as one of 45 countries whose people will be allowed to stay in Beijing visa-free for up to three days during a transit break from a trip to another destination.
The change will take effect on January 1.
Beijing is a popular transit destination for Kiwis going to Europe and the change is expected to result in more New Zealanders going through it rather than Singapore or Hong Kong, says a representative from the House of Travel agency.
From next month, Kiwis will be able to apply for a transit without visa at Beijing Capital International Airport if they have visas to enter a third country, proof of identity and plane tickets, the Beijing Tourism Development Committee said.
Other eligible countries include the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Singapore, South Korea and most European Union countries.
The policy is expected to bring an additional 600,000 to 800,000 transit visitors a year to the airport, which handled 47 million passengers in the first seven months of this year.
House of Travel commercial director Brent Thomas said that under present Chinese entry requirements, New Zealanders wishing to stay there for more than 48 hours had to provide bank statements, and proof of employment or studies at home.
The Weekend Herald understands this was because of an increase in the number of foreigners travelling to China on holiday visas to do business.
Mr Thomas said the present tight visa restrictions were making people think twice about going to China.
"The visa-free policy will certainly help; there is an increasing number of people who are using China as a gateway to Europe and are looking to do a short stopover there," he said.
"This would possibly mean more would use China as an alternative to Singapore, Hong Kong or even Los Angeles."
Mr Thomas said China was the sixth most popular destination for New Zealand travellers, and in the year to October, 50,000 had booked to go there.
China was a "growth market" and the visa-free arrangement could boost this further.
China's Xinhua News Agency said the policy was a bid to increase the inflow of tourists into the Chinese capital and Beijing Airport was the only port to which it would apply.
It would "strongly spur the development of the tourism industry, speed up building of an international city, expand contacts with the rest of the world", the Beijing Tourism Administration said on its website.
Transit visitors will not be allowed to leave Beijing - which has attractions including the Forbidden City and the Great Wall - during the 72 hours, and will have to depart from Beijing Airport.
Travellers who left the capital would "face punishment" and be banned for life from returning there, the deputy director of the city's exit-entry bureau, Gao Huada, was quoted as saying in the China Daily.
Shanghai, China's financial hub, allows foreigners, including New Zealanders in transit to stay in the city for up to 48 hours.By Lincoln Tan Email Lincoln