Visa-Free Entry to Boost European Tourism in China

Visa-Free Entry to Boost European Tourism in China

Explore China’s extended visa-free policy for 12 European countries, which makes travel easier and boosts tourism. Find out what this means for travelers!

China

China’s recent decision to extend the short-stay visa-exemption policy for citizens of 12 countries, including 11 European nations, until the end of 2025 is set to bring a fresh wave of European tourists. 

This move underscores the prospects of China-Europe engagement in the coming years and has been welcomed by travelers and analysts alike.

Expansion of Visa-Free Policy

Initially, China announced a visa-free policy for citizens of five European countries—France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain—allowing them to stay for up to 15 days without a visa for business, tourism, family trips, or transit. 

This policy, effective from December 1 of last year to November 30 this year, was extended to include six more European countries: Switzerland, Ireland, Hungary, Austria, Belgium, and Luxembourg. 

The latest extension now covers 12 countries and is valid until 2025.

Visa-Free Policy Coverage

CountryInitial Start DateExtended UntilDuration
FranceDec 1, 2023Dec 31, 202515 days
GermanyDec 1, 2023Dec 31, 202515 days
ItalyDec 1, 2023Dec 31, 202515 days
NetherlandsDec 1, 2023Dec 31, 202515 days
SpainDec 1, 2023Dec 31, 202515 days
SwitzerlandMar 14, 2024Dec 31, 202515 days
IrelandMar 14, 2024Dec 31, 202515 days
HungaryMar 14, 2024Dec 31, 202515 days
AustriaMar 14, 2024Dec 31, 202515 days
BelgiumMar 14, 2024Dec 31, 202515 days
LuxembourgMar 14, 2024Dec 31, 202515 days

During his visit to France last week, President Xi Jinping emphasized China’s openness to more visits from European countries, highlighting the visa-exemption extension as a significant step.

Positive Industry Response

Experts believe this policy extension will boost inbound tourism and strengthen China-Europe relations. 

Peng Han, chief analyst for tourism media company Travel Daily, noted that extending the time limit and the list of countries provides a positive long-term outlook, alleviating concerns about the policy’s duration.

Travel Daily data revealed a 2.5-fold increase in inbound tourists from visa-exempt Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand during the Labor Day holiday. 

However, inbound tourism from Europe remains at only 30% of 2019 levels.

European tour operators typically plan their outbound tourism strategies in June and July. 

According to Peng, clear and timely communication from China regarding the visa policy is crucial for these plans.

Impact on Independent Travelers

While the number of European tour groups visiting China has remained the same, independent travelers have benefited significantly from the visa-free policy. 

On March 14, when the new visa-free rules took effect, Ctrip data showed a doubling of inbound tourism orders from the newly added countries, with Belgium, Hungary, and Switzerland experiencing tripled orders.

Growth in Flight Bookings to China

CountryYear-on-Year Increase
France150%
Germany110%
ItalyNearly double

Visitor Experiences

David Huang, a French national working in Beijing, appreciates the new policy. 

Having previously navigated lengthy visa application processes, he sees visa-free access as a positive change, particularly for young travelers on limited budgets and global companies organizing events.

Laura Carbonell, a sales manager in Toledo, Spain, also welcomed the policy, highlighting the inconvenience of traveling long distances to apply for visas.

China has simplified entry visa procedures worldwide, including canceling appointment requirements and reducing visa fees by 25% until December.

Future Outlook

Despite political challenges from the West, such as the US imposing new visa restrictions and issuing travel warnings, China’s openness and efforts to simplify travel procedures are sending clear positive signals. 

Tourism analysts believe that as more European tourists visit China, their firsthand experiences will counteract negative preconceptions.

Peng of Travel Daily concluded, “With China opening its door, a firsthand experience will expose the falsehoods spread by some Western media.”

China’s visa-free policy extension is a significant step towards boosting inbound tourism, fostering international relations, and promoting cultural exchange. 

As the policy continues, more European travelers are expected to explore China’s rich heritage and modern marvels.

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