Further easing of entry restriction speeds up nation’s inbound tourism revival
Published: Jul 10, 2024 11:29 PM
Foreign tourists enjoy the scenery on a bamboo raft on Yulong River in Yangshuo county, Southwest China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, on July 15, 2023. Photo: VCG

Foreign tourists enjoy the scenery on a bamboo raft on Yulong River in Yangshuo county, Southwest China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, on July 15, 2023. Photo: VCG

Chinese embassies in 14 Central and Eastern European countries, including Greece, Poland and Hungary, have announced that China will grant five-year multiple-entry visas to citizens of these countries who hold a valid ordinary passport and meet all relevant requirements to visit China for business, tourism or family visits, effective on Wednesday.

These measures are being added to China's ongoing efforts to expand visa-free policies and streamline entry procedures for inbound tourism, aimed at accelerating the country's high-level opening-up to shore up the comprehensive economic revival, analysts said.

Foreign tourists' enthusiasm for visiting China has surged. According to a report sent by Tongcheng Travel to the Global Times, the number of foreign visitors to some domestic tourist cities has increased significantly during the peak summer travel season.

The robust demand has greatly boosted hotel bookings and tourist spending in major cities. In the first half of this year, foreign bookings for various branded hotels on the eLong hotel-booking platform nearly doubled year-on-year. Hotel bookings by foreign guests are expected to continue growing momentum during the summer, according to the report.

China has implemented measures to revive inbound tourism after the COVID-19 pandemic. In June, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced a unilateral 15-day visa-free entry pilot for New Zealand, Australia and Poland, increasing eligible countries for the policy to 15 days since November 2023. Experts note that the further relaxation of entry restrictions will provide a significant boost to both domestic and international tourism markets.

The strength of China's tourism reflects higher household incomes, service innovation and a shift towards visceral and cultural experiences in line with consumer preferences, UBS' Chief Investment Office said recently, highlighting tourism as a key driver of China's consumption upgrade and high-quality development.

A series of inbound facilitation policies have spurred a consumption recovery across China's tourism market, drawing a large influx of foreign visitors recently, Zhang Lingyun, executive editor-in-chief of Tourism Tribune, told Global Times on Wednesday, noting the surge will stimulate domestic consumption.

"Regarding the market structure, international markets beyond neighboring countries are still ripe for development, holding significant potential for further growth in China's inbound tourism," Zhang said, calling industries to evolve their marketing approaches based on the characteristics of customer groups from different countries.

Data from the National Immigration Administration showed that in the first half of the year, foreigners entered China through various ports amounted to 14.635 million in terms of passenger trips, up 152.7 percent year-on-year. Among them, 8.542 million entered visa-free, constituting 52 percent of the total and up 190.1 percent year-on-year.

Chinese airlines are also ramping up international flight capacity in response to high demand. Air China's routes will exceed 90 percent of the 2019 levels this summer, totaling 114 routes across 43 countries and regions worldwide. This includes 32 routes with 53 daily flights between China and Europe, surpassing overall flight operations to 116 percent of the 2019 levels.

China's National Development and Reform Commission and other departments have recently issued measures that called for the continuous optimization of entry and exit policies, the expansion of visa-free transit policies, an increase in the frequency of entry flights, and the introduction of more high-quality inbound tourism products and services to create new consumer options, while cultivating new growth points.