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Inbound tour orders from 6 EU nations rise

2024-03-19 10:51:25China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download
Inbound passengers go through entry procedures at Haikou Meilan International Airport in Hainan province on March 1. (LUO YUNFEI/CHINA NEWS SERVICE)

Inbound passengers go through entry procedures at Haikou Meilan International Airport in Hainan province on March 1. (LUO YUNFEI/CHINA NEWS SERVICE)

Number nearly doubles y-o-y on effective day of visa-free policy

China has seen growing orders for inbound tours from Switzerland, Ireland, Hungary, Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg following the implementation of a visa-free policy for these countries starting March 14, industry players have forecast.

China's inbound tourism market is also expected to recover rapidly this year, they said.

From Thursday to Nov 30 this year, ordinary passport holders from these six European countries can enter China visa-free for business, tourism, family visits, or transit for up to 15 days, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

On Thursday, the number of travel product orders to China from the six countries nearly doubled year-on-year and grew by about 40 percent from the same period in 2019, or before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Group, China's largest online travel agency.

Among the six countries, the number of travel product orders to China made by visitors from Switzerland, Belgium, and Hungary more than tripled year-on-year. Popular tourist destinations in China for inbound tours include Shanghai; Beijing; Shenzhen and Guangzhou in Guangdong province; Chengdu, Sichuan province; Hangzhou, Zhejiang province; Qingdao, Shandong province; and Xiamen, Fujian province, said.

"The expansion of the scope of visa-free policy to different countries, as well as strengthened efforts to improve payment services for foreign visitors, are expected to help promote a fast recovery in inbound tours," said Qin Jing, vice-president of Group.

"People from developed European countries such as Switzerland, Belgium and Austria boast high recognition for visiting China, and the number of travelers from those countries is expected to see rapid growth with further resumption of international flights," Qin said.

Fueled by the continuous recovery of inbound tourism in China, multiple travel agencies have constantly expanded their inbound tourism products.

Spring Tour Travel Agency said inbound visitors have indicated new travel demand, and domestic travel agencies should introduce more personalized and tailored products to cater to an increasingly diversified segment.

Since China announced the visa-free policy on March 7, searches for China-related keywords from those countries have surged, with hotel-related keyword searches jumping more than threefold year-on-year from March 7 to Thursday, found.

The six European countries have frequent business contacts with China. said last year, business travel orders to China from those countries recovered to 90 percent of 2019 levels, and the number of orders has continued to grow rapidly this year.

Meanwhile, Hungary recently announced the issuance of long-term visas for Chinese business executives who visit the country for investment and cooperation.

Between Jan 1 and March 6, the number of flights connecting China with Hungary and Luxembourg exceeded 2019 levels. During the same period, the number of flights connecting China and Switzerland, as well as China and Belgium, recovered to 60 percent to 90 percent of 2019 levels, according to Flight Master, a travel services platform in China.

Switzerland, Hungary and Austria operate direct flights to China, and popular routes include flights connecting Beijing and Geneva, and Shanghai and Zurich. The average flight prices from the six European countries to China until April have climbed by about 30 percent to 60 percent over the same period of 2019, found.

The online travel agency said it will actively leverage its products and services overseas, optimize its ability to serve consumers outside of China, and thus encourage more foreigners to visit China.

In late November, China announced a 15-day visa-free policy for short-term stays of citizens from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Malaysia, and the number of inbound foreign visitors has grown steadily since.

In 2023, China's inbound tourism market recovered to 20 percent to 30 percent of 2019 levels. Following the announcements of favorable visa-free policies to multiple countries, this year's inbound tourism market is expected to rebound to 70 percent to 80 percent of 2019 levels, said CYTS Tours Holding Co in Beijing.

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