Home Asia China Trials Visa-Free Travel for Six Countries in Bid to Boost Tourism

China Trials Visa-Free Travel for Six Countries in Bid to Boost Tourism

China has announced trials for visa-free travel for citizens of five prominent European countries—France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain—along with Malaysia. The decision, effective December 1, 2023, allows citizens from these nations to enter China for up to 15 days without the need for a visa. The trial program is slated to run for one year, with the aim of promoting business and tourism exchanges. The announcement, made on Friday, November 24, 2023, reflects China’s commitment to opening up to the world and facilitating high-quality development in the realm of international exchanges. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning, during a daily briefing, emphasized the goal of fostering meaningful interactions between Chinese and foreign individuals.

The move comes in the wake of China’s efforts to revitalize its tourism sector, which has been severely impacted by strict pandemic measures. Despite lifting travel restrictions earlier this year, international travel to China has yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels, partly due to the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic, China allowed citizens of Brunei, Japan, and Singapore to enter without a visa, a policy that was temporarily suspended during the pandemic. While visa-free entry was reinstated for Brunei and Singapore in July, Japan is still awaiting the resumption of this privilege.

In the first half of this year, China recorded 8.4 million entries and exits by foreigners, a stark contrast to the 977 million recorded in all of 2019, the last year before the pandemic struck. To boost its economy, China has been actively seeking foreign investment, with business leaders like Elon Musk of Tesla and Tim Cook of Apple participating in trade fairs and meetings. Interestingly, 2023 has witnessed a surge in interest among Europeans in visiting China. According to data from online travel agency Trip.com, there has been a staggering 663% increase in overall bookings from Europe to China compared to 2022, with almost a 29% increase from 2019. The United Kingdom and Germany have emerged as the top sources of inbound travelers to China globally, with Shenzhen and Shanghai ranking as the most popular destinations.

Beyond the introduction of visa-free schemes, China is employing a multifaceted approach to attract European tourists. The country is actively promoting its rich cultural and historical attractions while also investing in tourism infrastructure, including technology, travel guides, and e-payment systems. These initiatives aim to make travel to China more accessible and enjoyable for international visitors, marking a significant step in the nation’s efforts to revive its tourism sector post-pandemic.