China has extended its visa-free travel policy for citizens from 11 European countries and Malaysia until 2025. The move is part of China's strategy to increase tourism and strengthen international relationships after the global decline in travel due to the pandemic. 

The policy allows travelers to visit China for up to 15 days without a visa.

China Unveils Extended Visa-Free Travel Boost

China Encourages European Tourism with New Visa-Free Policy Until 2025

(Photo : Nuno Alberto on Unsplash)

The visa-free policy, first introduced in early 2024 for a year, has now been extended. It includes Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland. Visitors from these countries can enter China for up to 15 days without a visa.

Euronews reported that the decision aims to improve the exchange of people between China and Europe and open China more to the world. The Foreign Ministry of China shared this information in November, explaining that the goal is to support better quality interactions and more openness.

Tourism and international travel to China dropped significantly because of strict COVID-19 measures, which included mandatory quarantines. These restrictions were lifted last year, but the number of international visitors is still not as high as before the pandemic. 

In 2023, around 35.5 million foreigners entered or left China, much lower than the nearly 97.7 million in 2019.

China had allowed visa-free entry to citizens from Brunei, Japan, and Singapore before the pandemic, but paused it during the health crisis. Visa-free entry resumed for Brunei and Singapore in July last year, but not for Japan yet.

Online travel bookings from Europe to China have increased significantly, with Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen being popular destinations. The beachside city of Sanya and Chengdu are also becoming favorite spots for European travelers.

By making it easier to visit, China hopes to attract more tourists and investors, helping to boost its economy.

Related Article: Thailand Welcomes Chinese Tourists with Visa-Free Entry to Boost Tourism

China Sees Jump in Road and Rail Travel During Public Holiday

On Wednesday, the first day of a major public holiday in China, more people traveled by car and train, reflecting a cautious spending approach amid economic challenges. As the five-day holiday started, which included May Day, people avoided higher airline costs by driving or booking early to take advantage of lower prices.

Although travel has picked up since China ended its strict COVID-19 restrictions at the end of 2022, the money spent on these trips hasn't increased much. This slow spending is limiting the positive effects on the broader economy. 

China aims to achieve a 5% economic growth in 2024, a target that experts believe will be difficult to reach without additional economic boosts, as per Reuters.

Recent data indicates a slowdown in China's manufacturing and service sectors. For instance, the price of domestic economy flights fell 38% by the end of April compared to the beginning of the month, with an average ticket costing just under $97.

The roads were especially busy, with an estimated 58 million cars each day during the holiday. Railways also saw heavy traffic, carrying over 20 million passengers on Wednesday alone. 

The rise in travel reflects a 17% increase from last year during the same period, showing a cautious but steady recovery in travel habits.

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