China has lifted its ban on group tours to several countries, including popular destinations such as the US, UK, Australia, South Korea, and Japan. This new development, which takes effect immediately, has been announced by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The relaxation of restrictions applies to all travel agencies and online platforms within the country, signaling a positive step towards a return to normalcy in international travel.
The move is significant as it marks a shift in China’s approach after implementing a stringent zero-Covid strategy in 2020. During that period, China had isolated itself from the world, imposing visa suspensions and quarantine measures to control the virus’s spread within the country. With this recent change, travel experts anticipate a resurgence in Chinese tourists visiting global destinations, particularly since many Covid-related restrictions have been lifted.
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Notably, this isn’t China’s first step towards reopening; earlier this year, Chinese tour groups had been given approval to visit select countries as part of a trial program, including popular tourist hotspots like Thailand, Italy, and France. The Chinese tourism ministry has highlighted that outbound tourism has been gradually growing since the trial period, contributing positively to tourism exchanges and cooperation.
Although Chinese tourists can now explore nearly 140 countries in group tours, there are still a few dozen nations, such as Canada, Ukraine, and some countries in South America and Africa, that remain excluded from this opportunity. Despite these exclusions, the overall move to allow outbound group tours indicates a positive trend for the travel industry, with the Chinese market holding great potential, even though it hasn’t fully returned to the levels seen before the pandemic, as evidenced by the data on inbound tourism.