China lifts last travel restrictions

BEIJING, 24 January 2023: China will revive the country’s outbound group travel services starting 6 February, according to a circular released Friday by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and reported by Xinhua news service.

The ministry statement posted on its website describes a pilot programme that allows travel agencies to open outbound group travel for Chinese citizens to 20 nations.

The 20 nations: Thailand; Indonesia; Cambodia; Maldives; Sri Lanka; the Philippines; Malaysia; Singapore; Laos; the United Arab Emirates, Egypt; Kenya; South Africa; Russia; Switzerland; Hungary; New Zealand; Fiji; Cuba and Argentina.

In Southeast Asia, Vietnam and Myanmar are not included, and in Asia, India is absent from the list.

According to Xinhua, relevant airline ticket and hotel booking services will also be resumed. Although outbound tour groups can resume on 6 February, the logistics involved in setting up the tours will need to be revisited. Tour operators handling Chinese tour groups say it could take up to three weeks to renegotiate hotel contracts and reinstate bus transfers and sightseeing tours with new prices. Chinese tour operators usually block and buy seats on scheduled charter flights and then build package quotes covering airfare, hotels, transfers and sightseeing. The charter flight operators will need to reapply for traffic rights and secure deals with Chinese tour operators to buy seat allotments. It all takes time. 

China’s outbound group travel market was halted in early 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the China Daily report, data from Trip.com, a major tourism service supplier in China, showed that just half an hour after the ministry announcement, the search volume for outbound flight tickets and overseas hotels reached a three-year high on the company’s search engine. Singapore, the Republic of Korea, Japan and Thailand were among the most popular destinations.

Travel agencies and online travel companies are now preparing product launches, publicity and negotiating contracts for hotels, attractions and land content with local suppliers.

(Source: Xinhua and China Daily)

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