Hopes of China tourist revival after quarantine scrapped

Tourism operators are anticipating the return of Chinese visitors after their government announced it would scrap mandatory quarantine for inbound travellers.

As well as opening to the world, the change in effect from January 8 will make it much easier for Chinese travellers to return home.

China was the world’s largest outbound tourism market before COVID-19 shut down global travel, and was Australia’s top visiting nation.

Chinese overseas visitors spent $US127.5 billion ($189.3 billion) on worldwide travel in 2019.

Airlines are drawing up plans to expand their services.

But ordinary Chinese and travel agencies suggest that a return to anything like normal will take some time.

An immediate surge in international travel is not widely expected.

The government, which has since 2020 discouraged international travel given the dangers of COVID-19, said outbound travel would be restored “in an orderly manner”. It did not elaborate.

Flight tracking app VariFlight said it expected a robust rebound in flights to and from mainland China by the Labour Day holiday in May, but not before.

According to VariFlight data, international flights to and from China are at eight per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

Liu Simin, an official with the tourism arm of the China Society for Futures Studies, a research institute based in Beijing, said international travel won’t recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2024.

Weighing on many people’s travel plans is the wave of COVID-19 infections now sweeping China, Liu said.

Australia was a popular destination for Chinese before COVID. Photo: Getty

Some countries, including Japan and India, have announced travellers from China will have to show a negative COVID-19 test on arrival.

Another problem for many people is money.

“It takes time for people to gain confidence after so many of them lost jobs or made less money during the pandemic,” Liu said.

In a consumer study released this month, before the announcement of the easing of travel restrictions, consultancy Oliver Wyman found more than half of Chinese people surveyed would wait from several months to a year before resuming international travel once borders re-open.

One of the fastest bouncebacks is expected to be in international business travel.

“The recent announcement … clears the way for resumption of normal business travel, a top advocacy priority for the American business community in China over the past two years,” said AmCham China chairman Colm Rafferty.

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