Flight restrictions, visa problems and lingering pandemic-related entry rules affecting Chinese passport holders
According to the latest data from Trip.com Group (Ctrip), Chinese multinational online travel company that provides services including accommodation reservation, transportation ticketing, packaged tours and corporate travel management, bookings by Chinese tourists traveling to foreign destinations spiked by 640% during the Lunar New Year festival vs the same period last year, while foreign hotel bookings have quadrupled.
China’s borders were largely closed to tourist travel from 2019 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The reopening that kicked off in December of 2022 saw the government ending mandatory quarantines for those visiting mainland China, restarting its visa-free policy and resuming group tour travel.
But while cautious reopening of China’s economy after the end of massive coronavirus lockdowns has triggered tourism boom outside its borders, persisting pandemic-related snags have forced Chinese tourists to revise their travel preferences.
The change in travel preferences is based primarily on flight restrictions, visa problems and persisting pandemic-induced entry regulations aimed exclusively at Chinese passport holders.
Last year, Europe, Australia, Canada, Japan and South Korea were the top travel choices for Chinese tourists, but this year the majority of travelers have opted for Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Manila and Bali instead.
Chinese passport holders were unable to obtain tourist visas to South Korea and Japan after both Asian states stopped issuing them due to the recent massive surge in COVID-19 infections in China.
Chinese travelers wishing to visit Europe, have to wait much longer now to obtain visas due to high demand. Prior to the pandemic, EU visa applications took only few days to be processed, while now applicants have to wait up to two months to get a Schengen stamp.
According to Ctrip data, Thailand is currently the number one travel destination of choice for Chinese group tours. Maldives and Egypt are coming in as the second and third most popular choices.
Group tours are now also allowed from China to Indonesia, Cambodia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Laos, as well as the UAE, South Africa, Hungary, Cuba and Russia.
Meanwhile Japan, South Korea and Vietnam still prohibit Chinese group tours.