It is official: from Wednesday, March 15th, 2023, China will start re-issuing visas for all categories of international visitors. It is one of the last major economic powers to re-open fully to tourism in the world.
It is the first time since borders closed on March 28th, 2020. It is the second major step taken by the Chinese government after it dropped anti-covid policies last December.
The announcement comes as Mr. Xi is confirmed for his third term in a presidential role.
In pre-pandemic 2019, China recorded 670 million cross-border trips. In 2022 there were only 117 million. In 2019, a total of over 65 million international tourists were visiting the country.
Additionally, all visas issued before border closing will be honored.
Passengers arriving on cruise ships in Shanghai will be granted access to China visa-free.
Visitors from Macao and Hong Kong may also get some visa exemptions. The country will also allow tour groups from 60 destinations.
As the world’s second-largest economy sets a 5% gross target for 2023, its expectations for tourism revenue are also high.
According to data from Sabre, outbound tourism is picking up quicker than inbound tourism in China’s case. However, the full re-opening of inbound tourism will also result in a fast bounce back, in particular from destinations such as Taiwan, the USA, Thailand, Korea, the UK, and Canada.
Despite current high prices for airfares, the “revenge travel” phenomenon is still strong.
The number of international flights will equal half the number recorded in 2019.
Inbound flights in March rose by 350% compared to March 2022.
The total number of international flights is expected to increase by 2024.
With regards to testing or quarantine, no detailed information has yet been given, but pre-departure PCR tests are most likely. Chinese officials underlined their desire to create “favorable conditions for cross-border exchanges”. Airlines will no longer be required to check results before boarding.
Foreign authorities implemented relaxed covid testing for visitors from China, for example in the US, or Japan, where testing regulations are now less strict than earlier in January.
Even after the Chinese New Year and numerous domestic and international travels, there was no actual rebound in the number of infections in China.
During his speech on March 5th, New Premier Li Qiang strongly focused on the fact that China smoothly reopened its economy and travel regulations in two months.
Tourism actors wish this move will boost the cruise industry and encourage ships to dock in Shanghai, Hong Kong, or Macao. As Liu Zinan, Royal Caribbean Cruise’s Asia chairman quoted, ” the re-opening policy is a ‘strong and positive’ signal of China’s borders opening.
However, it was also mentioned that it might take months for the first international ship to dock in China.
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