China will reopen to tourists and resume issuing all visas from Wednesday (15 March) after three years, it has been confirmed.
The country closed its borders in March 2020 as a result of the Covid pandemic and is one of the last major countries to have remained inaccessible for most foreign travellers.
The return of visitors to the east Asian country could bring more than £1.5bn back to the devastated tourism sector.
Visa-free entry will resume at destinations such as Hainan Island, as well as for cruise ships passing through Shanghai port.
Visitors from Hong Kong and Macao will also be permitted to enter the prosperous southern manufacturing hub of Guangdong without a visa.
Chinese officials said that foreigners holding visas issued before 28 March 2020 that are still within their validity dates will also be able to enter China.
“Resuming applications for all types of visas removes another significant barrier in the resumption of normal travel between the UK and China,” Tom Simpson, managing director, China-Britain Business Council, told Reuters.
“The [council] has already seen business travel applications and arrivals begin to increase since January; however, this news should lead to a significant increase in visits in particular for tourism.”
The news follows a February announcement by the Chinese government which declared a “decisive victory” in the battle against Covid, claiming it had created “a miracle in the history of human civilisation” in its handling of the disease.
Officials also claimed that China’s death rate from coronavirus was “the lowest level in the world”.
Only Covid deaths that happen in hospitals have been included in official figures, an approach the World Health Organisation (WHO) says underestimates the true extent of fatalities.
There have also been reports of doctors pressured to leave Covid off death certificates, prompting further doubt over the veracity of official statistics.
“Unfavourable views” of the country due to concerns over human rights and China’s foreign policy may also stem the anticipated flow of western tourists back to the country.
“In terms of tourism, China is no longer a hotspot destination,” an executive at China International Travel Services in Beijing, who declined to be named due the sensitivity of the matter, told Reuters.
“Commercially, the wish…
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