China is fully reopening its borders to foreigners but hurdles remain in the near term

  • China will resume issuing all types of visas from Wednesday
  • Areas in China that did not require visas before the epidemic will return to visa-free entry
  • Foreigners with visas issued before March 28, 2020 are able to enter China if the visas have not expired.

BEIJING (Reuters) – China will reopen its borders to foreign tourists for the first time in the three years since the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, by allowing all categories of visas to be issued from Wednesday.

The removal of this latest cross-border surveillance measure imposed to protect against COVID-19 comes after authorities last month declared victory over the virus.

Tourism industry insiders don’t expect a huge influx of visitors in the short term or a big boost to the economy. In 2019, international tourism receipts accounted for only 0.9% of China’s GDP.

But the resumption of issuing visas to tourists marks a broader push by Beijing to normalize two-way travel between China and the world, after it withdrew its warning to citizens against overseas travel in January.

China’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday that areas in China that did not require visas before the epidemic will return to visa-free entry. This will include the southern tourist island of Hainan, a long-time favorite among Russians, as well as cruise ships that pass through the port of Shanghai.

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Visa-free entry for foreigners from Hong Kong and Macao into China’s more prosperous Guangdong province will also resume, a particular boon for the high-end hotels popular with international business travelers.

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“The announcement that China will resume issuing almost all types of visas to foreigners from tomorrow is positive for Australian companies whose executives want to travel here to visit their teams, customers and suppliers in China and explore new business opportunities on the mainland,” said von Barber, president of the Australian Chamber of Commerce in China. .

Chinese events open to foreign visitors – such as the China Development Forum in Beijing later this month and Shanghai Autochu in April – are gradually resuming. The Asian Games will also be held every four years in the eastern city of Hangzhou in September, after being postponed last year due to China’s concerns over the Corona virus.

But potential visitors may not arrive immediately in large numbers.

A global poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in September showed that unfavorable views of China among Western democracies have been hardened by concerns about human rights and Beijing’s aggressive foreign policy, as well as uncertainties surrounding its handling of COVID-19.

“In terms of tourism, China is no longer a hot destination,” said an executive with China International Travel Services in Beijing, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.

“On the business side, the willingness of foreigners to run events in China after COVID has also decreased, because a lot of things here are affected by the politics that scared them.”

geology

In a further easing of controls on outbound tourism, China has added 40 more countries to its list in which group trips are allowed, bringing the total number of countries to 60.

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But the list still excludes Japan, South Korea, Australia and the United States. Relations between those countries have deepened as Washington confronts Beijing on issues from Russia and Ukraine to China’s military presence in the South China Sea.

“It’s common to use tourist visas to come to China on business, but I don’t know how excited institutional investors are to do it, after all the drumbeat of the scary news,” said Duncan Clark, founder of BDA, Beijing. Existing investment advisory.

In 2022, 115.7 million cross-border trips were made in and out of China, and the number of foreigners was about 4.5 million.

By contrast, China registered 670 million total trips in 2019 before the arrival of COVID, with 97.7 million foreigners.

Additional reporting by Bernard Orr, Wang Jing, Joe Cash, Sophie Yu, Brenda Goh, Li Qiye and Elaine Zhang; Written by Ryan Wu. Editing by Christopher Cushing, Edwina Gibbs and Simon Cameron Moore

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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