China plans easing entry rules for foreign tourists, end to Zero Covid travel


Great Wall: China has hinted that international tourism could return soon. Photo / Markus Winkler, Unsplash

One of the most locked down and shut off travel destinations in the world has hinted at easing its Covid 19 travel restrictions. It’s a big one.

On Monday 19 September China issued its suggested regulations to boost inbound tourism softening restrictions for some international travelers. Soon the first foreign visitors could be entering China since the pandemic first shut the country down in March 2020.

Aspects of the draft policy from China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism look very similar to the first plans by Japan in May this year.

It is suggested that the first visitors must be part of tour groups organized by authorized travel agencies within China’s border regions. It is suggested that entry and exit points to China would be “flexible” to the needs of tour operators, but further details as to who could take part are yet to be released.

In an early draft seen by Reuters it was suggested that this would be prioritised for travel with bordering countries, including Russia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam.

Relaxation of border restrictions on other types of travel including international students have given hope that tourists could soon be welcomed back. Quarantine for foreign arrivals has also been reduced.

China's Ministry of tourism has hinted international visitors on tours could soon enter the country.  Photo / Ling Tang, Unsplash
China’s Ministry of tourism has hinted international visitors on tours could soon enter the country. Photo / Ling Tang, Unsplash

Hong Kong to drop hotel quarantine

China’s SARs, which have had similarly strict interpretations of quarantine and entry rules, have also shown signs of easing travel restrictions. Hong Kong has suggested that its mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals could soon be replaced by home isolation.

The strict quarantine rules have led to dire problems at the City’s large international airport, where pilots were complaining of the endless cycle of quarantine and flying. Airline pilots who were subjected to three days’ quarantine on arrival complained of a “perpetual state of isolation.”

Cathay Pacific welcomed the news announcing it would be increasing flights when Hong Kong moved to the test on arrival and home isolation.

“These changes allow us to add back more flights, to build momentum, and to continue our recovery,” said Cathay CEO Augustus Tang.

Though there won’t be any announcement until the details are finalised, the South China Morning Post reported international arrivals will be able to opt for seven days of “home health monitoring”.

A snap Covid lockdown caught tens of thousands of tourists in Sanya and Hainan, dubbed China's Hawaii.  Photo / Getty Images
A snap Covid lockdown caught tens of thousands of tourists in Sanya and Hainan, dubbed China’s Hawaii. Photo / Getty Images

These could be the first signs of the end of China’s controversial Zero Covid policy.

State run think-tank China Tourism Academy welcomed the suggested changes, but was cautious about the timeline.

“I think cross-border tourism will recover, though I can’t predict when,” said Yang Jinsong, head of the China Tourism Academy, told Reuters.

“It depends on the Covid situation and the effects of virus control measures, which the tourism department can’t decide.”

Snap lockdowns and trapped travelers

The Zero Covid policy of China has led to some difficult times for China’s domestic travelers.

While encouraging leisure travel, tourists have had the looming prospect of being “trapped” on holiday by a state-mandated local lockdown.

In August some 178,000 tourists were asked to isolate on the tropical island of Sanya, dubbed China’s Hawaii, by a local snap lockdown.

This month guests of a Disneyland Shanghai hotel were reportedly asked to isolate after a previous guest was found to be a close contact of a Covid 19 case.

On September 7, social media posts on Weibo surfaced from guests of the Shanghai Disneyland hotel.

Not everyone was upset about this. One visitor writing under the alias @恶霸小提莫 “Bully Teemo” told the Xiaohongshu app it was a welcome break to quarantine in the ‘happiest place on earth’:

“We watched so many Disney movies for free. We were given so many little gifts… and watch the fireworks every night at 8.30pm. Although we weren’t allowed to go outside, we really had a pleasant stay.”

We watch the fireworks: Guests of Shanghai Disneyland shared their isolation experience on social media sites Wiebo and The Little Red Book.  Photo / Screenshot, Xiaohongshu
We watch the fireworks: Guests of Shanghai Disneyland shared their isolation experience on social media sites Wiebo and The Little Red Book. Photo / Screenshot, Xiaohongshu

.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *