More Chinese tourists favor taking trips to Central Asia

2024-07-05 09:22:40China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Members of a Chinese cycling club prepare to board an international bus for a trip to Kazakhstan in September. (ZHOU HANGSHENG/FOR CHINA DAILY)

A rising number of Chinese tourists have chosen Kazakhstan as their travel destination amid preferable visa policy, convenient flight arrangements and tourism promotion efforts, domestic travel agencies said.

Since tourists traveling between China and Kazakhstan began enjoying the visa-free privilege in November, Kazakhstan has become an increasingly popular destination among Chinese, said Liang Changhong, general manager of China CYTS Tours Holding Co's operations in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

Chinese and Kazakh nationals are allowed to stay in each other's country for no more than 30 days for a single entry, and no more than 90 days in total for multiple visits within a 180-day period, according to their visa policies.

It grants visa exemptions for citizens of both countries covering private affairs, tourism, medical treatment, international transportation, transit and business purposes.

CYTS Tours organized a self-drive tour for mid-June from Xinjiang to Central Asian countries. The tour was quickly booked up.

"More than 40 people from across the country signed up," Liang said.

During the 16-day trip, the travelers were able to check in at the Horgos land port in Xinjiang, which was an important post on the ancient Silk Road. From there, they exited the country and headed to Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan, to have an in-depth experience of Central Asian culture.

"Kazakhstan and the rest of Central Asia have recently been in peak tourism season, which can be expected to continue until the end of the summer," Liang said.

Li Mengran, marketing manager at Utour, a travel agency in Beijing, said that Central Asian destinations, especially Kazakhstan, have gained significant momentum after the full recovery of the country's outbound travel market in 2023, and especially since the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was held in Beijing in October.

"Our products for Central Asia have received brisk bookings for June to September, with hundreds of tourists having gone to the five Central Asian countries for sightseeing," Li said.

With the launch of Kazakhstan Tourism Year in Beijing in March, more Chinese travelers have been made aware of the country's charm and have shown great interest, she added.

The company has developed a 23-day tour to the region and has received positive feedback from customers, Li said.

"We have incorporated premium hotel resources and more local experiences such as traditional song and dance performances, so tourists can gain a more comprehensive understanding of the charm of the Central Asian countries," she said.

Li said she expects that as bilateral exchanges increase, travel for business meetings and official visits will also continue to grow.

Since 2023, direct flights between China and Central Asia have been gradually resuming, with new routes being developed.

Travelers can currently fly directly to Kazakhstan from cities including Beijing, Xi'an in Shaanxi province, Urumqi in Xinjiang, and Hangzhou in Zhejiang province, or take road trips from Horgos.

Outbound travelers are mainly heading for such destinations as Almaty and the Kazakh capital, Astana, said Zhang Jun, an officer with the Horgos border checkpoint.

Zhang also noted that many foreign travelers who pass through the checkpoint have bought distinctive Chinese products to share with their friends and family members.

Last year, the number of Chinese travelers to Kazakhstan increased more than tenfold to 367,000, according to Kazakh authorities.

Kairat Sadvakassov, chairman of Kazakh Tourism National Co, said he expects the figure to reach 500,000 this year.

"We believe that Kazakhstan is one of the most attractive destinations for Chinese tourists, being not just a friendly and neighboring country with a visa-free regime, but also a strategic partner of the Belt and Road Initiative," said Sadvakassov.

He recommended space tourism for Chinese visitors and said the country will also promote agri-tourism and culinary tourism throughout the year.

There are plans to organize an off-road expedition to explore a cross-border route from Urumqi through the southeastern and southern regions of Kazakhstan and on to Astana, he added.


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