China to expand visa-free travel to more countries, seeking further exemptions: FM

2024-02-01 09:05:47Global Times Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

China will expand visa-free travel to more countries and seek more countries for mutual visa exemption, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday, as China continues to make efforts to facilitate travel and tourism with more countries.

Up to now, China has inked mutual visa exemption agreements covering different types of passports with 157 countries, reached agreements or arrangements on simplified visa procedures with 44 countries and enjoyed comprehensive mutual visa exemptions with 23 countries, including Thailand, Singapore, the Maldives and UAE, Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on Wednesday.

On Sunday, China and Thailand signed in Bangkok a mutual visa exemption agreement, which will come into effect on March 1. This move followed visa exemption agreements between China and some other Southeast Asian countries, which show China's commitment to expanding its openness.

Days earlier, China and Singapore signed an agreement on mutual visa exemption, which will officially come into effect on February 9. Malaysia also exempted Chinese citizens from visa requirements.

After the mutual visa exemption agreement is reached between China and Singapore and between China and Thailand, the number of travel bookings for the Spring Festival made by Chinese visitors to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, as well as that by visitors from these three countries to China surged significantly year-on-year.

The bookings of Chinese tourists for travel to these three countries during the upcoming Spring Festival holidays were up more than 15 times compared with 2023 on Chinese travel platform as of Monday.

Improving visa policies and facilitating cross-border travel is an important measure, through which the diplomatic service contributes to China's high-quality development and high-level opening-up, and this brings more opportunities for deepening friendly exchanges and mutually beneficial cooperation between China and other countries, Wang said.

China's visa-free policy will help world tourism pick up.

International tourism numbers are set to recover to pre-pandemic levels in 2024, according to data published by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) on Friday, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

A "stronger recovery of Asian markets" and a corresponding rise in the number of airline connections are "expected to underpin a full recovery by the end of 2024," said the report.

"The whole world has been waiting for China to open up more, and now Chinese tourists are coming back," Zurab Pololikashvili, secretary-general of the UNWTO, told Xinhua ahead of the International Tourism Fair.

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