China lifts travel restrictions on group tours to key markets

India, US, Japan, South Korea & Australia among those included
/ New Delhi
Chinese outbound travel
China lifts travel restrictions on group tours to key markets

With USD 255 billion in 2019, mainland Chinese tourists very highest spenders

In what was described as 'a significant win' by the US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, China's Culture and Tourism Ministry has announced the lift on ban on group tours for more countries.
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China has lifted pandemic-era restrictions on outbound group tours for more countries, including key markets such as India, the United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia.

In a press statement, China’s Culture and Tourism Ministry has announced that the decision was effective immediately. Germany and Britain were also among the countries for which restrictions were lifted but Canada, which has had especially politically fraught relations with China of late, was not reinstated. 

Prior to the pandemic, mainland Chinese tourists spent more than any other country’s tourists when abroad. It reached USD 255 billion in 2019 with group tours estimated to account for roughly 60 pc of that, says the statement.

It adds that their absence since the pandemic led to financial troubles for many tourism-dependent businesses around the globe. US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo described the step as ‘a significant win’ for the US tourism industry and said it was the result of ‘months of hard work’ between the US Commerce Department and China’s Culture and Tourism Ministry.

The ministry says that it was China’s third list of countries to receive approvals. The first batch approved in January included 20 countries such as Thailand, Russia, Cuba and Argentina. The second batch in March included 40 countries, among them Nepal, France, Portugal and Brazil.

It adds that as per analysts, the countries taking time to gain approval have had more political and/or trade tension with the world’s second-largest economy.

Don Farrell

Don Farrell

The statement says that the move was also welcomed by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida as well as tourism ministers in South Korea and Australia, who said it would boost their economies.

‘‘This is another positive step towards the stabilisation of our relationship with China,’’ says Australian Trade and Tourism Minister Don Farrell.

Just how much outbound Chinese tourism will bounce back for the latest group of countries remains to be seen. Expectations that demand would come roaring back after borders were re-opened have to date been largely unfulfilled. International flights in and out of China have recovered to only 53 pc of 2019 levels as of July, says the statement.

Steve Saxon

Steve Saxon

It adds that it is in large part due to staffing issues for many global airlines that have limited the flying of more routes, slow visa issuance for Chinese travellers amid backlogs in many Western countries and a sputtering domestic economy that is discouraging many holidaying Chinese from spending big.

‘‘Despite a cooling overall economy, 40 pc of Chinese people say they will spend more on travel. People want to spend the money they’ve saved during Covid-19 on international travel,’’ says Steve Saxon, a partner at McKinsey & Co.

Adam Burke

Adam Burke, China’s largest travel agency, says that the news had led to a spike in searches for destinations including Australia and Japan. Those countries, along with several other Asian nations and the United States, are among the most visited by Chinese travellers.

‘‘The opening of group travel from China to the US is a significant milestone. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of Chinese tourism to Los Angeles,’’ says Adam Burke, head of the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board. The statement adds that shares in firms in the latest group of countries with large exposure to Chinese travel demand jumped on the news.

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