China is expanding its unilateral visa-free policy for ordinary passport holders of six countries—France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, and Malaysia—with the aim of supporting the tourism sector industry’s recovery. The program will be trialed from December 1, 2023, to November 30, 2024.
Ordinary passport holders from the aforementioned nations may enter China visa-free for a maximum of 15 days for business, leisure, or transit purposes under the expanded visa-free program. The objective is to enhance the accessibility of travel to China for a broader global audience and promote closer relations between the destination and the aforementioned half-dozen nations.
It is anticipated that the revised policy will additionally act as a catalyst for the revival of the Chinese inbound tourism industry. The mere mention of its existence has already generated a notable upswing in traffic to travel platforms.
China, being the country of origin of COVID-19, implemented the most stringent border control measures and quarantine protocols possible throughout the duration of the pandemic. Strictly adhering to its “Zero COVID” policy for nearly three years, almost no one was permitted to enter or exit the country. It was not until September 2023 that the country with the second-largest population in the globe resumed issuing visas to foreign visitors.
Consequently, while domestic and outbound tourism have experienced a relatively swift revival, China’s recovery in inbound international tourism has been more gradual. In the first half of 2023, national travel agencies received 477,800 inbound excursions, according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, an increase from the nearly 8.6 million received in the same period of 2019.