Aline of passport applicants forms at the Beijing Public Security Bureau immigration service hall on Jan 9. (ZOU HONG/CHINA DAILY)
Market on course for recovery as COVID-19 restrictions lifted
Lin Mao, who works for a private outbound tourism agency in Beijing, decided to take a look at WeChat Moments on his phone just before going to bed on Dec 26.
He saw that the National Health Commission had announced that the quarantine requirement for international arrivals would be scrapped starting on Jan 8, when management of COVID-19 cases would be downgraded from Class A to Class B.
"Many celebratory posts suddenly appeared on WeChat. The comments were generally full of hope for new business opportunities," Lin said.
He welcomed the commission's announcement, as his company had struggled to remain in business for the past three years.
"Now that the market has been allowed to open, it will take some time for us to develop our tourism products. I need to find out where we stand in light of the new situation and also sort out our available overseas travel resources," Lin said.
China's outbound tourism sector is expected to bounce back as a result of the newly adjusted COVID-19 response that lifts restrictions on Chinese citizens' traveling overseas and also promotes cross-border personnel exchanges.
Numerous posts from netizens voicing enthusiasm for overseas travel have appeared on Chinese social media platforms, with people scouring online travel sites to search for destinations and book air tickets.
According to online travel service provider Trip.com Group, the search volume for outbound flights and overseas hotels reached a three-year high just 30 minutes after the health commission's announcement.
Reservations for outbound flights soared by 254 percent on the morning of Dec 27, compared with the same period the previous day, the online agency reported.
Countries elsewhere in Asia are expected to be among the first to benefit from the wave of travelers from China.
The agency said Singapore and Thailand are among the most popular destinations for Chinese tourists.
Fang Zeqian, an analyst at Trip.com Group, said the changed response to COVID-19 will smooth the way for cross-border travel.
Wouter Vermeulen, general manager of China business for Air France and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, is excited about the new measures.
"They came earlier than we expected, and my team members are thrilled," he said.
"The next step for us is to understand the meaning behind these measures, as these are high-level decisions, and we need to work with local and civil aviation authorities to get these policies implemented."
Vermeulen expects the Dutch and French authorities to hold discussions with China about resuming normal flight frequencies, which he hopes to see no later than the summer.
"Our main goal is to hopefully return to pre-pandemic status and open up direct flights from Beijing and Shanghai to Paris and Amsterdam as soon as possible," he said.