CHINA introduced visa-free visas for citizens of Malaysia and five European countries in December 2023. Recently, China allowed citizens from Ireland and Switzerland visa-free, after France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.

The announcement came as Chinese Premier Li Qiang attended the World Economic Forum in Davos this week. One of the goals is to encourage more people to visit for business and tourism purposes. This visa-free entry permits a stay of 15 days for one year.

Previously, many tourists were reluctant to visit due to strict implementation of COVID-19 prevention in China. Although restrictions were lifted early last year, international travel has not returned to pre-pandemic levels.

Expanding visa-friendly initiatives
This major change in visa policy aims to position the country as a friendlier and more accessible destination for global tourists.

China has expanded its visa-friendly initiatives, establishing a bilateral visa-free agreement with Thailand from March 2024. It also extended its joint visa-free agreement with Singapore by 30 days in 2024.

In an effort to boost tourism, China is also simplifying the visa application process for United States travelers. Travelers applying for an L-1 tourist visa no longer need to provide proof of round-trip flight tickets, hotel reservations, itineraries, or invitation letters.

China is a popular tourist destination among Europeans
According to data from online travel agency shows an increase in travel from Europe to China by 663% compared to 2022. An increase of almost 29% compared to 2019.

Tourists from the UK and Germany are among the top 10 sources of tourists arriving globally. Meanwhile, a popular tourist destination is Shanghai, with its mix of modernity and tradition. Followed by Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

In addition to the new visa-free scheme, the country is also encouraging inbound tourist numbers by promoting cultural and historical attractions through a partnership with China is also improving its tourism infrastructure by investing in technology, travel guides and electronic payment systems. [sources/photo special]