China Eases Visa Policy to Boost Tourism

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In a concerted effort to restore its once-thriving tourism sector, China has announced significant relaxations to its visa application requirements.

The nation hopes to stimulate a resurgence of international visitors after experiencing a sharp decline due to strict COVID-19 restrictions from 2020 to 2022.

China does not grant visa-free access to travelers from the majority of nations. This is in contrast to other nations that rank first on lists of the most visited destinations in the world, like the United States, the United Kingdom, and France.

China Eases Visa Policy to Boost Tourism

China’s New Visa Requirements

As the world gradually adapts to a post-pandemic reality, China’s visa policy changes reflect a broader strategy to reclaim its stature in the global tourism industry.

One of the primary revisions is that applicants now only need to provide 1 year of travel history. This is a significant reduction from the earlier requirement of 5 years.

Moreover, instead of detailing their entire educational history, individuals now only need to declare their highest achieved qualification.

Mao Ning, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, elaborated on the changes in a recent press briefing. “The improvement involves seven major items and 15 sub-items, concerning mainly the applicants’ educational background, family information, and previous travel history,” he said.

Ning emphasized the ministry’s commitment, saying, “The foreign ministry will continue to facilitate people-to-people exchange between China and other countries and serve high-quality development and high-level opening up.”

Applicants will spend much less time filling in the forms and expect a more streamlined visa application process,” the Ministry added in a statement.

China Hopes Easing Requirements Will Revive Tourism

Prior to the pandemic, China was a magnet for international tourists, with over 65 million visitors in 2019. These visitors generated nearly $900 billion in revenue, according to the country’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

However, stringent COVID-19 measures crippled the nation’s tourism industry, with an estimated 60% revenue drop in the subsequent 3 years.

Domestic travel within China has now managed to climb back to and surpass pre-COVID levels. However, international visitors are proving slow to return.

Apart from the primary visa reforms, there have been additional efforts to encourage foreign tourists. For instance, Chinese visa requirements for Indians have been relaxed.

A temporary halt on biometric data submissions for eligible Indian applicants is now in place until December 31. This applies to Chinese visas for tourism, business activities, family visits, and transit.

International Travel from China Also on The Rise

China’s recent decision to lift travel bans for countries like the US, Japan, and 70 others also signals a move to open up the rest of the world to its citizens once again.

An increasing number of Chinese people are going overseas for study and recreation. Chinese tourists made up the largest outbound tourism market in 2019 with outbound travel expenditures of $127.5 billion.

According to Reuters, 1 million Chinese tourists visited Thailand between January and May of this year. Government authorities anticipate that more than 5 million Chinese tourists will visit Thailand this year in general.

During the peak of COVID-19 restrictions, the number of Chinese travelers to the United States decreased from 2.8 million in 2019 to 192,000 in 2021. But according to the U.S. National Travel & Tourism Office, approximately 1.4 million Chinese tourists will visit the United States in 2024, up from 850,000 this year.

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