After almost 3 years of closure, China opens up to international tourism from January 2023

Following the downgrade of COVID-19 to a Class B infectious disease and the removal of centralized quarantine for inbound travelers, China announced that it will optimize immigration administration policies and measures starting from January 8, 2023. In particular, China will resume the issuance of passports for Chinese mainland residents, ordinary visas and residence permits for foreigners, as well as tourist visa exemption for short-term travelers. China international tourism

The most significant step will be the scrapping of hotel quarantines for inbound travellers from January 8 and the removal of a cap on the daily number of flights allowed into China. (Masks will still need to be worn on board.) There will be no need to apply for a health code.

Since March 2020, anyone entering China had to endure a mandatory quarantine at a state facility for up to three weeks. However, that was reduced to five days in November 2022.
In about a week, the only restriction for incoming travellers to China will be the need to take a PCR test before flying, with a validity window of 48 before arriving at customs.

Visas for inbound business travellers and people visiting family will be issued from January 8 but general tourist visas (which are required for those with a British passport) are yet to be given the “green light”
According to the South China Morning Post, “even if passengers present with a fever at customs, they can take a rapid antigen test and if positive with mild symptoms, can isolate at home. Travellers with severe symptoms will be encouraged to seek medical treatment”.

The new measures will also grant greater freedoms to Chinese citizens who want to travel overseas again. Firstly, they won’t need to provide a reason to the government. Secondly, from January 8, they will once again be able to apply for passports. This will be a huge boon to many countries that have previously received huge spending from Chinese tourists.


However, for Chinese outbound travellers, many countries such as Japan, India, France, the US and the UK will impose testing requirements on them because cases of Covid have now gone up dramatically in the country, due to a countrywide removal of regional lockdowns, quarantines for local people who are infected and forced testing. Taking a test to fly will no doubt be a small price to pay though for far greater liberties.

 

Searches for popular destinations had increased ten-fold year-on-year China international tourism

To be more specific, the Overall Plan mentions that China will “improve management of personnel exchanges between China and foreign countries” and implement the following measures:

  • Inbound travelers to China will no longer need to apply for a health code from Chinese embassies or consulates, though a negative nucleic acid test from the last 48 hours will still be required.
  • Nucleic acid tests and centralized quarantine for all inbound travelers will be canceled. If the health declaration is normal and the customs port routine quarantine check is normal, they can be released into the community without further requirements.
  • Measures to control the number of international passenger flights, including the “five-one” policy (in which every foreign airline was required to maintain only one air route to China and operate no more than one flight a week) and the passenger load factor limit, will be lifted. Nevertheless, airlines will still be required to prevent disease on board, and passengers shall be required to wear masks when flying.
  • China will further optimize arrangements for foreigners returning to China for work resumption, business, study, family visits, and reunions, and provide visa facilities accordingly.
  • The entry and exit of passenger transport by water and land ports will be gradually resumed.
  • China will resume outbound tourism in an orderly manner in light of the international epidemic situation and the service support capacity of all sectors.

According to the BBC, within half an hour of the recent notice that China’s borders would reopen, data from travel site Trip.com – cited in Chinese media – showed searches for popular destinations had increased ten-fold year-on-year. Macau, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand and South Korea were the most popular destinations.

In 2019, before the pandemic, the number of outbound tourists from China totaled 155 million; in 2020 this dropped to 20 million. Spending by outbound Chinese tourists in 2019 amounted to US$255 billion. Check out availability for some of the best China toursChina international tourism

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