Visa-free entry for cruise passengers entering Shanghai now resumes
Published: Mar 14, 2023 09:31 PM

World's largest ro-ro passenger ship No.1 moors at Nansha international cruise port in Guangzhou, south China's Guangdong Province, Oct 27, 2022. Photo: China News Service

World's largest ro-ro passenger ship No.1 moors at Nansha international cruise port in Guangzhou, south China's Guangdong Province, Oct 27, 2022. Photo: China News Service

The Chinese government has decided to resume visa-free entry for cruise passengers entering Shanghai, effective Wednesday, and make other adjustments to its visa and entry policies for overseas travelers, according to notices from multiple Chinese consulates and embassies.

Following the orderly recovery of cross-border tourism in China, the policy shift is expected to boost inbound tourism and accelerate cruise travel, industry sources said.

Starting Wednesday, international tourist groups on cruises visiting the port of Shanghai can enter Shanghai visa-free and travel in the coastal provinces for up to 15 days, according to the Shanghai General Station of Immigration Inspection.

The policy took effect in 2016 and was suspended in March 2020, in the aftermath of the outbreak of COVID-19.

The adjustment in the policy will encourage overseas cruise ships to dock in China, which is conducive to the recovery of the inbound tourism, Xu Xiaolei, marketing manager at China's CYTS Tours Holding Co, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

At the same time, it also sends a signal of China's continued opening-up and will encourage global cruise liners to step up cruise operations to China, Xu added.

Some international cruise liners told the Global Times on Tuesday that the government decision displays a strong confidence in cross-border travel revival.

Liu Zinan, Asia chairman of Royal Caribbean Cruise, told the Global Times that the policy, released soon after the conclusion of the two sessions, sends a "strong and positive" signal of China's continuous opening-up. 

"Now the policy will benefit global cruise ships that will stop over at Shanghai's cruise port. But we don't see the policy as an isolated case, and we believe it will be followed by a policy that allows international cruise ships to use Shanghai as a home port for operations not far down the road," Liu said, adding that it would mean the restart of China's international cruise business after a halt of three years.

However, Liu noted that global cruise operators need time to readjust on a whole range of issues from logistics to sales, so it may take months before the first international cruise ship docks at Shanghai.

On the one hand, some destinations are not yet covered in China's pilot program for outbound group tours. On the other hand, it takes time to adjust international routes, a customer service employee at MSC Cruise told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"Cruise ships are typically deployed a year in advance so we expect the earliest possible routes to restart by next year," she said 

Before the pandemic, China was the second-largest cruise market. According a report released by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, the contribution of international cruise travel to China's economy was 35.8 billion yuan ($5.20 billion) in 2019. 

By 2035, China's cruise market will reach 14 million passengers per year, making it the world's largest cruise market, according to a guideline issued by the Ministry of Transport and National Development and Reform Commission.