BEIJING – For the first time in three years since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, China will reopen its borders to foreign tourists and allow the issuance of all categories of visas from Wednesday.
Authorities declared victory over the virus last month after lifting this last cross-border control measure put in place to guard against Covid-19.
Tourism industry insiders do not expect a massive influx of visitors or significant growth in the economy in the short term. In 2019, international tourism receipts accounted for only 0.9% of China’s GDP.
But the resumption of issuing visas for tourists is part of a broader push by Beijing to normalize two-way travel between China and the world, which in January withdrew its advice to citizens against traveling abroad.
The Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that regions in China that did not require visas before the pandemic will revert to visa-free entry. This would include the southern tourist island of Hainan, a longtime favorite destination among Russians, as well as cruise ships passing through the port of Shanghai.
Visa-free entry for foreigners from Hong Kong and Macau to Guangdong, China’s most prosperous province, will also resume, a boon for expensive hotels especially popular among international business travelers.
“The announcement that China will begin issuing virtually all types of visas to foreigners from tomorrow is a positive for Australian businesses, whose executives will be able to meet their China-based teams, customers and suppliers and explore new business opportunities in the mainland market. Would like to visit here to find out. said Vaughn 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 the Shanghai Autoshow in April – are slowly resuming. The quadrennial Asian Games will also be held in the eastern city of Hangzhou in September after being postponed last year due to China’s Covid concerns.
But potential visitors may not immediately arrive in large numbers.
A global survey by the Pew Research Center in September showed unfavorable views of China have hardened among Western democracies because of skepticism over human rights and Beijing’s aggressive foreign policy, as well as its handling of Covid-19.
In a further relaxation of controls on outbound tourism, China added 40 countries to its list for which group tours are allowed, taking the total number of countries to 60.
But the list still does not include Japan, South Korea, Australia and the United States. Relations between those countries deepen as Washington confronts Beijing on issues ranging from Russia and Ukraine to the Chinese 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 enthusiastic institutional investors would be to do that,” said Duncan Clarke, founder of BDA, Beijing. based investment consulting firm.
In 2022, only 115.7 million cross-border trips will be made in and out of China, of which foreigners will account for about 4.5 million.
In contrast, China made a total of 670 million trips in 2019 before the advent of Covid, of which foreigners accounted for 97.7 million.