China to reopen to tourism, but not all is as it seems

China will reopen its borders to foreign tourist from tomorrow for the first time in three years and the start of the pandemic. Yet like all things with China the news comes with caveats, criteria and a whole heap of uncertainty.

It was the news that many had been patiently waiting for, China which ended its zero-covid policy following unprecedented protests, before a slow reopening to non-tourists will now allow “all types of visa” to be applied for, as well as allowing those whose visa expired after March 2020 (lockdown) to use said visas. This is set to be implemented from tomorrow (March 15th), although in both cases whether this has been communicated to the rank and file, or quite how it will work is yet to be seen.

The removal of the last of these of these measures comes after the government announced “victory” over the virus, although the cost of said victory, from a human, monetary and indeed wreputanional point if view is yet to be fully grasped.

To read about the Great Chinese U-turn click here.

What will it mean for the Chinese tourist industry?

In short it will mean that the industry will be able to resume from what was essentially nothing, with even local tourism not being present recently, but it is also extremely unlikely to have a huge impact.

Industry insiders, travel agents and even Facebook travel groups are far from predicting a massive influx of tourists, with many feeling that the county’s reputation as a whole has taken a battering due to its increased authoritarian nature, its ties with Russia over Ukraine, but primarily its handling of the pandemic. As much as Chinese media tried to hide it, pictures of zero-covid and stories of people being stuck in the country are very much etched into peoples minds.

What does the opening mean in real terms?

Aside from people being able to travel, it will also mean that China can essentially again become part of the global community. Trade fairs can now accept foreign guests, simple things like hosting the Asia games can now take place and many families who have not seen each over for over three years can now be reunited.

To read about the SEA Games in Cambodia click here

And of course there is the business element. Chinese “face” might have taken a battering and indeed its economy, but just how important financially the country is should not be underestimated. Businessmen being able to come and go will undoubtedly help the Chinese economy and those that it does business with.

Quite whether China can retain its former permanent power is yet to be seen though, with many companies now diversifying their supply lines so as not to be too reliant on China, something unlikely to change.

What does it mean economically?

Despite being an industry worth billions tourism to China is still relatively small fry, simply because of the size of the country and the economy. In 2019 International tourism accounted for less than 1 percent of the total gross domestic product of the communist giants, another reason why the country was not desperate to open its borders to what would likely be more money going out than coming in.

And it is this point where the financial gains are likely to truly seen and that is with the tourist economies of local neighbors, such as Hong Kong, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. Chinese people have been locked up for three years and now the genie is about to be let out of the bottle, both touristically and more interestingly from a capital flight point of view.

And these nations, and potentially many others are going to be only too happy to oblige…