CHINA’S U-TURN ON ‘ZERO-COVID’ POLICY GIVES WELCOME BOOST TO DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL TOURISM
China’s decision to relax quarantine and Covid restrictions for its citizens has opened up the possibility of cross country travel again. The last stage will be the reopening of the country to foreign travellers, which is set on January 8, 2023.
For months, residents had to test every two-to-three days, if not daily in some areas.. However, tests are no longer required to enter many public places. People are also no longer required to scan the “health code” on their smartphone. The “three-colour code” (green, orange and red) was part of a nationwide system to track movements of people across the country so that the journey of the virus could also be tracked.
Another important step is that people who test positive for Covid-19 but have mild or no symptoms can now stay at home instead of being sent to government centralised hospital wards.
Domestic travel to bounce back first
Travel, which has been severely curtailed, is again allowed from one province to another. China has scrapped the need for travellers to undergo testing before domestic flights or rail trips.
In a recent interview, China’s leading epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan said that he expects to see China returning to some normality by the middle of next year if they ramp up vaccination efforts prior to the Lunar New Year – generally the busiest season for travelling.
The relaxation of Covid rules translated immediately in an increase in search volume for flight tickets on online travel agency platforms. Searches for air tickets for the eve of the Spring Festival reached its highest point in three years. Chinese air carriers also increased their available seats by over 10% after the government’s announcement of the new rules.
Outbound nternational travel unlikely to grow quick again
Many experts expect China to allow international travel by the middle of 2023. A survey from international consultancy cabinet Oliver Wyman points, however, to a slow recovery of international travel from Chinese citizens. In the survey answered by 4,000 Chinese consumers, 55% of the respondents said they are worried about getting Covid-19 while travelling, and 50% said they are worried about dealing with potential changes to re-entry policies. Fifty-percent of those surveyed said they would put off travel abroad, for periods from several months to more than a year.
Hong Kong, however, is on top of the wish list for travel, with 34% of respondents saying it would be their destination of choice once borders fully-reopen. The Hong Kong government is looking for a quarantine-free travel between Hong Kong and Mainland China by early 2023 as the National Health Commission announced the lifting of travel restrictions for inbound visitors.
International inbound travellers finally allowed
Indeed, as a last step into its reopening, China announced to eliminate its quarantine rules for international visitors, starting January 8, 2023. Although abolition of quarantine for foreign travellers has been confirmed, travellers will have to produce a negative PCR test to Covid, not older than 48 hours. Other measures such as restricted flight capacities and frequencies and the downloading of a monitoring app. have also been eliminated.
Visas for inbound travellers are for now reserved for business, student and family purposes as well as only for entry by air. Rules are likely to be further loosen in the weeks to come.