China Ends Covid-Era Travel Ban, Resumes Group Tours
China's Tourism Reawakens: Outbound Group Tours Resume After Covid-19 Restrictions Eased
In a significant development signaling a shift in its pandemic response strategy, Beijing has officially lifted the Covid-era ban on outbound group tours to numerous countries, including prominent destinations such as the United States and Japan.
The Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism made this announcement on Thursday, underscoring a pivotal step towards resuming international travel.
As a retrospective, in 2020, China adopted an isolationist approach, effectively isolating itself from global interactions as part of its rigorous zero-Covid strategy. Utilizing tactics such as visa suspensions and extensive quarantines, the country aimed to stem the influx of Covid cases from abroad.
According to the official statement released by the Ministry, travel agencies spanning the nation and online travel companies are now permitted to recommence outbound group tours to over 70 countries, encompassing major destinations such as the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, and South Korea.
Earlier in the current year, the Chinese government initiated a trial program that allowed select tour groups to visit a handful of countries, which included renowned tourist hotspots like Thailand, Italy, and France.
The Ministry of Tourism emphasized that outbound tourism has been on a steady growth trajectory since the commencement of the trial period, highlighting its constructive role in boosting international tourism exchanges and fostering cooperation among nations.
Notably, China boasted the world’s largest outbound tourism market in 2019, with an impressive 155 million overseas trips undertaken by mainland Chinese residents. However, this dominance waned in the past few years due to stringent passport renewal regulations and reduced international flight options intended to discourage travel.
In early December, Chinese authorities brought an end to the extensive regime of mass testing, lockdowns, and prolonged quarantines. However, this abrupt shift inadvertently led to a resurgence of Covid cases, prompting a reevaluation of the country’s approach.
Towards the end of December, Beijing announced that inbound travelers to China would no longer be subject to mandatory quarantine starting from January 8. Nevertheless, visa restrictions for foreigners remained in place.
Though China resumed issuing various visas to foreign nationals in March, the influx of inbound tourists still pales compared to pre-pandemic levels. This cautious approach underscores China’s ongoing commitment to managing its borders and preventing the resurgence of the virus while gradually reestablishing its global connections in the realm of tourism.