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China to Resume Tourism

China is one of the last big countries to reopen its borders to tourism. After it declared a "decisive triumph" over COVID-19 in February, it made the statement on Tuesday.

After a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic, China will begin issuing all visas on Wednesday to revive its tourism and economy. The embassy announcement also stated that valid tickets issued before March 28, 2020, would once again permit entrance to China when new travel documents had been checked and approved.

Although other nations began to resume foreign travel earlier, China didn't start to relax its zero-Covid policy until late 2022, when unrest broke out over the severe limitations.

China's action aims to guarantee that its citizens are treated equally to those of other countries. This is because many nations, including the US, require either a clear COVID-19 exam before leaving China or a test upon arrival at the airport or, occasionally, both. To boost the nation's economy, which has been adversely affected by the pandemic, the restart of visa issuance and the adoption of the new travel policy are intended to draw more business and vacationers.

In response, China has "improved mechanisms for remote testing of people traveling to China from relevant countries," permitting pre-boarding antigen testing rather than nucleic acid testing, according to Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the foreign ministry, in remarks to media on Tuesday.

All of these have been effectively carried out, and the pandemic danger is typically under control, according to Wang, who spoke at a daily briefing.

The measure will "better ease the exchange of Chinese and foreign personnel," according to the announcement put on the websites of various Chinese missions and embassies. 

Foreign nationals may enter China if they have valid visas that were issued before March 28, 2020. Foreigners entering Guangdong in southern China from Hong Kong and Macao will again be able to do so without a visa. There was no mention in the notification of the need for immunization records or COVID-19 tests that were negative.

Insiders in the tourism sector do not anticipate a substantial increase in tourism or an immediate economic benefit. Just 0.9% of China's GDP was made up of revenue from international tourism in 2019.

According to Vaughn Barber, chairman of the Australian Chamber of Commerce in China, "the announcement that China will resume issuing nearly all types of visas for foreigners from tomorrow is positive for Australian businesses whose executives would like to travel here to visit their China-based teams, customers, and suppliers and to explore new business opportunities in the mainland market.”

Chinese events that are open to international tourists are gradually starting up again. Examples include the China Development Conference in Beijing later this month and the Shanghai Autoshow in April. The Asian Games, held every four years, will also be held in the eastern city of Hangzhou in September after being postponed the previous year owing to China's COVID worries. But potential visitors might not show up in large numbers right away.

According to a global study conducted by the Pew Research Center in September, western democracies' negative opinions of China have become more entrenched due to worries about human rights, Beijing's assertive foreign policy, and suspicions about the handling of COVID-19.

"In terms of tourism, China is no longer a hotspot destination," said an executive with China International Travel Services in Beijing, declining to be named due to the topic's sensitivity.

Commercially, foreigners' desire to organize events in China has declined due to COVID since too many decisions here are influenced by politics, scaring them away.

China added 40 more nations to its list of those where group trips are permitted, raising the total to 60, as part of a further loosening of restrictions on outbound tourism.

Japan, South Korea, Australia, and the United States are still absent from the list. As Washington and Beijing sparred over matters ranging from Russia and Ukraine to China's military position in the South China Sea, relations between those nations became closer.

Following the publication of the notice on Friday, searches for overseas flight tickets increased by 185% in just one hour, according to data from the Alibaba-owned travel website Fliggy.

"After the first stage of the pilot program, it is yet another policy boost for the tourism sector, which has been quickly beginning to recover. It also demonstrates that the resumption is being carried out in a phased, steady, and orderly manner, which is advantageous for ensuring the safety and enjoyment of Chinese tourists traveling abroad "CYTS Tours Holding Co. in China's Xu Xiaolei, the company's marketing manager, told the Global Times on Friday.

Data from Trip.com to the Global Times showed that among the 40 nations, flights to Vietnam are pretty frequent and inexpensive, while costs for tickets to European countries continue to be relatively high.

"I don't know how happy institutional investors will be to do so, following all the drumbeat of alarming news," said Duncan Clark, founder of BDA, a Beijing-based investment firm. "It's customary to utilize holiday visas to come to China on business.

In 2022, just 115.7 million cross-border journeys were undertaken in and out of China, with foreigners accounting for roughly 4.5 million.

In comparison, China recorded 670 million total travels in 2019 before the implementation of COVID, of which foreigners made 97.7 million

Edited by: Whitney Edna Ibe

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