For the first time in the three years following the COVID-19 pandemic, China announced that it would resume issuing all types of visas starting on Wednesday, reopening its borders to foreign tourists.
Following last month’s declaration of victory by authorities over a recent COVID-19 outbreak, this final cross-border control measure has been lifted.
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The improvement in the tourism industry should help rekindle a $17 trillion economy that had one of the slowest growth rates in close to 50 years last year.
The foreign ministry announced on Tuesday that areas of China that were previously visa-free will once again be accessible without one. This will include cruise ships passing through Shanghai port and the southern tourist island of Hainan.
Foreigners from Hong Kong and Macau will once again be able to enter the southern manufacturing hub of Guangdong without a visa.
The ministry added that foreign nationals with valid visas obtained prior to March 28, 2020, will also be permitted entry into China.
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In order to resume regular travel between the UK and China, Tom Simpson, managing director of the China-Britain Business Council, said that applications for all types of visas must be reopened.
“The (council) has already noted business travel applications and arrivals beginning to increase since January, but this news should lead to a significant increase in visits, particularly for tourism,” the statement continued.
China, which removed its advice against foreign travel in January, increased the number of nations for which group tours are permitted by 40 more, bringing the total to 60.
According to Chinese flight tracking APP Flight Master, international arrivals and departures increased by more than 350% in the week of March 6 compared to the same period last year, reaching nearly 2,500 flights, though this was still only 17.4% of 2019 levels.
In 2022, there were only 115.7 million border crossings into and out of China, of which 4.5 million were performed by visitors from outside China.
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Before the implementation of COVID, China recorded 670 million total trips in 2019, of which 97.7 million were made by foreigners.
Beijing ended its strict zero-COVID policies in December and abolished the need for incoming travelers to undergo quarantine in January.
According to the country’s new premier, Li Qiang, China’s strategies and responses to COVID-19 took less than two months to achieve a “smooth transition” and were entirely appropriate.