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China opens visa-free door

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SINGAPORE, 28 November: China will expand its visa-free policy for ordinary passport holders from six countries (five in Europe plus Malaysia) starting 1 December. 

Implemented on a trial basis until 30 November 2024, the provision applies to citizens from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Malaysia. The policy will be implemented on a trial basis. Visa-free entry is available to ordinary passport holders from the six countries visiting China for business, leisure, and transit. The stay is limited to 15 days. 

“Inbound tourism is where new opportunities lie,” says Jane Sun, CEO of Trip.com Group.

A Trip.com Group advisory said the move should promote the recovery of the Chinese inbound tourism market. During the first 10 months of 2023, Trip.com said it had recorded a four-digit growth in visitor numbers compared to the same period in 2022. This equates to more than 60% of pre-pandemic levels. 

Data showed that Malaysia and Germany were leading among China’s top 10 sources markets for inbound tourism. Trip.com Group noted that pageviews focusing on flights from Malaysia to China jumped by 48.69% on 24 November, compared to the same day a week earlier.

Long-haul inbound travel to China also shows signs of recovery, surpassing pre-pandemic levels. Booking increases are evident elsewhere. For instance, European bookings to China saw a remarkable increase of 663.0% compared to 2022 and a significant growth of 28.9% compared to 2019.

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, inbound tours received by national travel agencies in the first half of 2023 totalled 477,800, while in the first half of 2019, the tally stood at 8,561,600.

However, inbound tourism is where new opportunities lie, according to Trip.com Group CEO Jane Sun.

“China’s inbound tourism has huge potential, and if it rises to the international median of 1.5% of GDP, it will bring at least RMB1,310 billion in growth earnings.”

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