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China expands visa-free policy, bolsters inbound tourism growth

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China extends its visa-free policy to six countries, enhancing travel ease and boosting inbound tourism. This move aligns with the substantial recovery in European and Malaysian travel to China, as seen in recent data.

SINGAPORE – China has announced that it will expand the scope of its unilateral visa-free policy for ordinary passport holders from six countries: France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Malaysia. The policy will be implemented on a trial basis.

Effective from December 1, 2023, to November 30, 2024, people holding ordinary passports from the aforementioned countries can visit China for business, leisure and transit, visiting for up to 15 days without a visa. This new policy is expected to facilitate more accessible travel and promote closer ties between China and the countries involved.

The move is also expected to promote the recovery of the Chinese inbound tourism market. In the first ten months of 2023, Trip.com already saw four-digit growth in visitor numbers when compared with the same period in 2022. This equates to more than 60% of pre-pandemic levels. Data further shows that Malaysia and Germany are among the top 10 sources of inbound tourism over the same period. At the time of writing, pageviews on flights from Malaysia to China jumped by 48.69% on 24 November, compared to the same day a week ago.

Long-haul inbound travel is also showing signs of recovery, surpassing pre-pandemic levels. For instance, European bookings to China saw a remarkable increase of 663.0% compared to 2022 and a significant growth of 28.9% when compared to 2019.

To boost inbound travel to China, Trip.com Group has also recently signed a strategic framework agreement to implement the “Nihao! China” program with the China International Culture Association, which includes filming and producing global promotional videos to showcase China’s beauty as a travel destination.

Additionally, the framework will look to build a service platform for inbound travel and organise activities at the China International Tourism Fair, the Sino-French Tourism Year, the China-US Tourism High-Level Dialogue, and the World Conference on Tourism Development, among other events. Favourable inbound tourism policies are expected to continue to be implemented, providing new development opportunities for the inbound tourism industry and enhancing their service capabilities.

Trip.com has recently released the “China Travel Guide,” a comprehensive guide that provides international visitors with travel-related information such as hotel reservations, travel advice, transportation options, payment methods, insights into popular destinations, and more. Since its launch in September, it has already served nearly 100,000 overseas visitors. As of the time of publishing, visits to Trip.com’s “China Travel Guide” page, have increased by more than 30%.

Compared with the rapid recovery of domestic and outbound tourism, the recovery of inbound tourism is relatively slower. According to a report by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the number of inbound tours received by national travel agencies in the first half of 2023 was 477,800, while in the first half of 2019, it was 8,561,600.

However, inbound tourism is where new opportunities lie. Jane Sun, CEO of Trip.com Group, said: “China’s inbound tourism has huge potential, and if it is raised to the international median of 1.5% of GDP, it will bring at least nearly one thousand, three hundred and ten billion yuan of growth space.”

Trip.com Group will support inbound tourism by utilizing its technological expertise to make it easier for visitors to travel to China. It will also bring together various resources to promote tourism while showcasing China’s unique tourist attractions to attract visitors from all over the world.

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George, in his capacity as an intern, diligently oversees the flow of news, assists in the publication of content, and delves into the strategies of social media distribution. He is currently pursuing his studies in Business Administration at the Athens University of Economics and Business.

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