15 Mar 2023

China reopens borders to foreign tourists for first time since Covid erupted

9:03 am on 15 March 2023
(230219) -- BEIJING, Feb. 19, 2023 (Xinhua) -- This aerial photo taken on Feb. 19, 2023 shows snow scenery of the Simatai section of the Great Wall at sunrise in Beijing, capital of China. (Xinhua/Cai Yang) (Photo by Cai Yang / XINHUA / Xinhua via AFP)

China is hoping to revive tourism and the economy by lifting border restrictions. Photo: Cai Yang / Xinhua via AFP

By Joel Guinto

China is to resume issuing visas to foreign tourists for the first time since the Covid pandemic broke out three years ago.

The major easing of restrictions comes after Beijing declared victory over the virus and retreated from a zero-Covid strategy that has hurt its economy.

From 15 March, foreign offices can process applications for Chinese visas.

Visa-free entry will also resume in Hainan Island and Shanghai for cruise ships.

Tour groups from Hong Kong and Macau will also regain their visa-free privilege.

In addition, valid visas issued before China closed to the world on 28 March 2020 will be honoured again.

The removal of the last cross-border restrictions imposed to tackle Covid marks a major step towards the resumption of normal life in post-pandemic China.

Tens of millions of international visitors came to China each year prior to the pandemic, and its tourism industry has been hard hit by strict anti-Covid measures.

But the country can expect a significant increase in international arrivals, after it reopens its borders, analysts say.

Chinese citizens will also be allowed to travel on tour groups to 60 countries, up from 20 previously.

China said its gross domestic product grew just 3 percent in 2022, the worst in nearly half a century.

For the current year, Beijing has set a 5 percent target with new Premier Li Qiang saying that the world's second largest economy is stabilising and picking up again.

The zero-Covid policy that was lifted in December sparked rare protests against China's leader, Xi Jinping.

He has since solidified his grip on power in the Communist Party and secured a record third term as president.


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