China to Resume Pilot Outbound Tours to Selected Countries 

On January 20, 2023, the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced that Chinese travel agencies and online tour operators would restart offering pilot outbound group tours.

As per Ministerial noticefrom February 6, 2023, Chinese travel agencies will be able to open outbound group tours for Chinese citizens to 20 countries – Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Kenya , South Africa, Russia, Switzerland, Hungary, New Zealand, Fiji, Cuba, and Argentina.

The notice also stated that travel companies will be allowed to offer travelers with airline and hotel packages.

According to the ministry, the decision is based on factors related to COVID-19 control measures and socioeconomic growth, and it was taken at the request of the Foreign Affairs Panel of the State Council Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism – the country’s major COVID-19 management task force.

The note promises to improve monitoring of business activities in an effort to keep the tourism sector in good shape. Travel organizations should explain the details of each trip on the appropriate platforms and avoid planning tours outside the specified time frame or to unlisted locations. Local authorities are asked to increase their monitoring of illegal activities, such as tours with “unreasonably cheap prices.”

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With regard to COVID-19 measures, the notice says that the authorities must inform tour operators to strictly adhere to the regulations that are in place both in China and abroad. Before boarding the flight, travelers are asked to “make sure they are not infected”. They will also be required to “pay attention to their own safety and health, adhere to local COVID-19 rules during travel, and follow epidemic prevention guidelines after returning.”

Good news for overseas tourist destinations

The news was welcomed by many Chinese and international businesses that have struggled under nearly three years of severe slowdowns and travel restrictions. Following the recent revival of international travel, some countries have extended their warm welcome to Chinese visitors.

On Wednesday the Maldives a colorful ceremony was held to welcome the first Chinese visitors since 2020. Passengers from China were welcomed at an airport. Thailand by the Deputy Prime Minister and other government officials who also gave them garlands and health packs.

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Analysts noted that the pilot program for the resumption of outbound group tours marks a significant achievement for China after its suspension of travel and border restrictions for nearly three years. The move shows Beijing’s increased confidence in pandemic prevention measures as the country moves into a new phase of its COVID-19 management and response.

Possible recovery of the outbound tourism industry in 2023

Several online travel agencies have observed a significant recovery in outbound travel. After the China sudden U-turn in the COVID-19 policy, online travel bookings have increased rapidly. For example, during the 2023 Spring Festival periodReservations on Fliggy (Alibaba’s travel-services platform) quadrupled for outbound travel services in 33 countries and regions, with bookings in Thailand, the Maldives and New Zealand increasing more than 10 times over the previous year.

Data from Trip.com, a well-known provider of travel services in China, revealed that only 30 minutes after the announcement, the volume of searches on the company’s search engine for international hotels and airline tickets reached a three-year high.

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Meanwhile, the number of orders for departure flight tickets increased by 254 percent on the morning of December 27, 2022, compared to just the day before. Singapore, Japan, Thailand, and the Republic of Korea were among the most popular travel destinations at the time of the search.

2023 is already looking to be a promising year for the tourism industry.


About us

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors in China and has done so since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the company for assistance in China at [email protected] Dezan Shira & Associates has offices in Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, USA, Germany, Italy, India and Russia, in addition to our trade research facilities along the Belt & Road Initiative. We also have partner companies that help foreign investors in the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh.

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