China welcomes travellers with new visa free access

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FILE PHOTO: Travellers walk with their suitcases at Beijing Daxing International Airport in Beijing, China April 24, 2023. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang/File photo

China has taken a strategic step towards revitalizing its tourism industry post pandemic by introducing temporary visa free access for citizens from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Malaysia. From December 1 to November 30 next year, individuals from these countries will be able to enter China without a visa for up to 15 days. This initiative covers various purposes such as business trips, tourism, visiting family and friends or transiting through China. The announcement was made by the foreign ministry spokesperson on Friday.

In an effort to recover from the impact of COVID 19 and restore international travel routes, China is gradually easing entry restrictions and facilitating international flights. The decision to offer visa free entry reflects broader attempts to boost tourism and enhance China’s global reputation. Recent tensions with Western nations on issues like COVID 19 response and human rights concerns have challenged China’s international image.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center across 24 countries, there is widespread negativity towards China with 67% of adults expressing unfavorable views.

More than half of the survey participants believed that China interfered in the affairs of other nations without considering their interests.

Patricia Flor, the German ambassador to China, expressed her approval on X (formerly Twitter), saying, “This decision will greatly facilitate travel to China for many German citizens.” She also expressed hope that these measures would be extended to all EU member states.

Catherine Colonna, the French Foreign Minister who is currently in Beijing, shared her excitement on X about a new announcement from her counterpart Wang Yi; “This is excellent news on the occasion of my visit!”

China’s recent expansion of its visa free transit policy to 54 countries, including Norway and their removal of COVID testing requirements for incoming travellers in August indicates a gradual reopening of borders. The fact that China resumed 15-day visa free entry for citizens from Singapore and Brunei in July further demonstrates their efforts to welcome international visitors.

Although international flights are still recovering, China’s aviation authority expects 16,680 weekly flights from November through March, with passenger flights projected to reach 71% of the total four years ago. The European Chamber of Commerce in China expressed approval for this decision, citing its potential to enhance business confidence and encourage interpersonal exchanges between individuals.

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