Chinese tourists interact with Maasai performers at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, Feb 11, 2023. (PHOTO / XINHUA)
Nearly 40 million entries and exits to and from the Chinese mainland were made in the past two months since China downgraded its COVID-19 management from Class A to Class B on Jan 8, as a number of countries are expected to relax their epidemic restrictions for travelers from China.
The National Immigration Administration said on Wednesday that the numbers of people and vehicles entering and leaving the mainland increased significantly since the implementation of the optimized COVID-19 response measures.
As of Tuesday, immigration authorities across the country had handled 39.72 million entry and exit trips, up 112.4 percent year-on-year, and the number of inbound and outbound vehicles, boats, planes and trains totaled nearly 2.5 million, up 59.3 percent year-on-year.
The authorities issued about 3.36 million passports to Chinese citizens in the past two months, more than 13 times the number issued in the preceding two-month period before the optimized COVID-19 measures took effect. In addition, 12.67 million certificates were issued for travel to and from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, an increase of 837.7 percent, and 122,000 visas and residence permits were issued to foreigners, up 33.1 percent.
Lin Yongsheng, a spokesman for the administration, said that since the implementation of the optimized measures, the entry-exit flow of people and applications for entry-exit documents have risen sharply, driven by the steady increase in international passenger flights and the resumption of personnel exchanges between the mainland and Hong Kong as well as Macao.
Immigration authorities will continue to improve the measures to meet the increased entry-exit needs and promote exchanges between Chinese and foreign personnel, Lin said.
Meanwhile, United States media reports said that Washington is planning to ease COVID-19 testing restrictions for travelers from China "as early as Friday". Two months ago, it introduced targeted COVID-19 testing policies for passengers aged 2 and older from China, requiring them to offer a negative nucleic acid test result within two days before their flight.
In response to the reported US act to ease the restrictions, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said on Wednesday that China always believes that the epidemic control measures adopted by every country should be scientific and appropriate.
"We hope relevant countries will work with China to provide more convenience for personnel exchanges between China and other countries," Mao said.
Meanwhile, South Korea said on Wednesday it will lift COVID-19 control restrictions for travelers from China starting on Saturday, and people who want to enter South Korea from China will not need to provide a negative nucleic acid test result within 48 hours before departure.
On March 1, South Korea lifted its policy requiring travelers from China to undergo nucleic acid testing after landing in the country and requiring all fights from China to land at the country's Incheon International Airport.
Dai Bin, a member of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and president of the China Tourism Academy, said on the sidelines of the ongoing two sessions that based on the current development of the tourism market and various factors, including policy, supply and tourists' assessment of destinations, it is expected that the inbound and outbound tourism market will recover this year to within 30 to 40 percent of its 2019 level.
The factors affecting the recovery of the inbound and outbound tourism market are much more complex than those in the domestic tourism market, so it will be slower than the recovery of domestic tourism, Dai said.
"I have full confidence in 2023, and I think as long as tourists, tourism operators, government regulators and industry promotion departments can think together and work together, we will soon return to our ideal goal," he said.
With the intensive release of favorable inbound and outbound tourism policies, the trend for tourism recovery has gradually emerged. According to data released by Ctrip, an online travel platform, on Tuesday, the overall air ticket bookings on Ctrip's international platform increased by more than 80 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2022.