China extends visa-free access to six countries

    China is looking to boost inbound international tourism after its post-pandemic reopening earlier this year.
    Jing Daily
      Published   in Travel

    What Happened: China’s foreign ministry announced last week that the nation would expand its visa-free entry policy to include five new European nations, as well as Malaysia. 

    Over the Christmas and New Year holidays, travelers from France, Germany, Italy, Malaysia, Spain, and the Netherlands will be able to visit China for two weeks without a visa.

    The exemption is seen as part of China’s efforts to ramp up its inbound international tourism after the nation reopened earlier this year following several years of Covid-19 lockdowns.

    Visa-free entry for the aforementioned countries begins on December 1 and will last for a year.

    China will expand visa-free entry to six nations starting December 1. Photo: Unsplash
    China will expand visa-free entry to six nations starting December 1. Photo: Unsplash

    The Jing Take: Since its reopening, China has yet to see inbound tourism recover to pre-pandemic levels. Travel for the third quarter of 2023 was only 45 percent of 2019’s numbers, according to the latest report by The South China Morning Post (SCMP). 

    International tourism revenue during the same quarter reached 59 percent of pre-pandemic levels, according to the same report, which cited figures shared by Chinese bank China International Capital Corporation (CICC).

    “The slow recovery of inbound tourists and consumption is partly related to the slow recovery of the economy and may also be related to the number of international flights,” the CICC told the media.

    Overall, it’s been a slow but steady year of inbound and outbound tourism recovery for China.

    The reopening of borders has not been without challenges so far — a few months ago, the nation was still processing a backlog of visa applications. Outbound visa application platforms were grappling with the large number of residents seeking to visit international destinations, including the US, where Jing Daily has reported the number of Chinese tourists has plummeted by almost 70 percent from 2019, with fewer than 850,000 Chinese tourists slated to visit by the end of 2023. 

    More significantly, China lifted its outbound group travel ban on Japan, South Korea, Australia, and the US in August this year. Before the ban (enacted in 2020), outbound Chinese group tours had contributed to 60 percent of the $255 billion generated by Chinese tourism in 2019. 

    Despite their “cautious optimism” amid China’s economic slowdown, Chinese travelers are spending the most on shopping compared to other nationalities, at $1,350 per person on average. By 2027, duty-free sales within the Asia-Pacific are projected to hit $81 billion, with major contributions from Chinese shoppers. This figure is forecast to comprise nearly half of the projected global duty-free market value of $168 billion that same year.

    The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.

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