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Visa-free entry policies have long been recognized as potent tools for bolstering tourism numbers. China not only acknowledges the potential of this strategy, but is also keen to translate this into tangible results.

China has announced a 15-day visa-free entry for citizens of six additional European countries: Switzerland, Ireland, Hungary, Austria, Belgium, and Luxembourg.

Effective between March 14 and November 30, 2024, this allows citizens from these nations to enter China for business, tourism, visiting relatives and friends, and transit without requiring a visa.

Announcing this on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi expressed hope for reciprocal actions from other countries, emphasizing the importance of building fast-track networks for cross-border travels and expediting the resumption of international passenger flights.

The Visa-Free Boost to Tourism

Keen to jumpstart its tourism sector, China had earlier announced visa-free entry for citizens of some countries:

  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • the Netherlands
  • Spain
  • Singapore
  • Malaysia
  • Brunei.

Additionally, China and Thailand entered into a mutual visa entry agreement in January, which took effect on March 1. Under this agreement, citizens from both countries can visit each other visa-free for up to 30 days per entry, with a cumulative stay of 90 days per half year.

Mao Ning, the spokesperson for the foreign ministry, highlighted the significant increase in foreign tourists to China due to its visa-free policy. During the Spring Festival holiday, inbound travelers reached 3.23 million, with a notable surge from newly-added countries enjoying visa-free policies such as France, Germany, Malaysia and Singapore.

Efforts to Boost Inbound

China’s efforts to boost inbound tourism include measures such as shortening visa application forms, lowering visa fees, streamlining approval procedures, exempting biometrics for certain applicants, and offering walk-in visa application services.

Additionally, the People’s Bank of China has instructed payment institutions to enhance the efficiency of linking mobile payment accounts with foreign bank cards and simplify identity authentication procedures, along with lifting the single mobile payment cap.

Payment institutions have been asked to raise the single transaction limit of mobile payment for foreigners in China from $1,000 to $5,000 and lift the annual cumulative transaction limit from $10,000 to $50,000.

To cater to the needs of foreign tourists, facilities at tourist attractions, parks, and hotels in Beijing are being upgraded to accommodate foreign bank cards.

Many tourist establishments in Shanghai have also installed credit card machines capable of handling foreign bank cards.

Data from the central bank showed that nearly 4 million foreign visitors used mobile payment in China in 2023 and made more than 70 million transactions with a total value of more than 10 billion yuan ($1.38 billion).

Also, leading telecom operators in China are now at major city airports to assist foreigners in obtaining a mobile number upon arrival, facilitating their communication needs during their stay.


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Tags: asia monthly, china travel, coronavirus recovery, credit cards, digital payments, european travel, malaysia, payments, singapore, thailand, visa waiver

Photo credit: Tourist establishments in Shanghai have installed credit card machines capable of handling foreign bank cards. Wolfram K /">Pexels

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