Since December 1, China has been experimenting with the suspension of visa requirements for stays of less than 15 days. This one-year measure applies to French, German, Italian, Dutch and Spanish nationals. The aim is to boost European tourism in a country hit by the economic slowdown.
Nationals of five European countries (France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain) and one Asian country (Malaysia) will benefit from a new visa exemption policy for stays of less than 15 days, to be applied by the Chinese government from December 1, 2023 to November 30, 2024.
International tourism to the rescue of the local economy
How about celebrating Christmas in China?
More than ever, this question is being asked as the government simplifies entry conditions into the country. In fact, Christmas is increasingly celebrated by the locals, who see it above all as a commercial festival for getting together with friends. For example, the Chinese are accustomed to offering apples – whose character is close to the word “peace” – on “Silent Night”, i.e. Christmas Eve.
Since December 1, and for a period of one year, nationals of six countries have been able to enter the country more easily, whether they are travelling for business, tourism, visiting friends and/or relatives, or in transit.
This new Chinese policy is aimed at restoring the Middle Kingdom’s image, dented by the Covid crisis, as well as revitalizing tourism and related spending.
According to Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning, it’s as much about “promoting the development of China’s high quality [as its] openness to the world“.
For Anaïs Bournonville, co-founder of Reverse Group, a consulting firm specializing in the Chinese market, “this opening is an excellent first step towards strengthening ties between Europe and the Middle Kingdom, not only in terms of tourism, but also in terms of the exchange of talent and ideas. It’s also a real business facilitator, whether in the organization of future trade shows or branded events.”
France has already reacted positively, allowing Chinese citizens with a Master’s degree and at least one semester’s study in the country of Molière’s language to benefit from a Schengen access visa for 5 years.
From the very first hours of this new policy, the state-owned media CGTN noted a visible effect on Western and Malaysian tourist flows. The number of visitors from the six countries concerned rose by 12.54% on the first day, compared with the previous day, to 2020. The increase was seen at airports in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong and Yunnan provinces.
Anais Bournonville has observed a change in behavior on the part of both types of customer. “For large companies such as LVMH and Hermès, this decision sounds like a liberation: they can now attend any event in China without hindrance. For small and medium-sized companies, it’s a chance to meet directly with business partners (distributors, boutiques…). It’s worth noting that this post-Covid thaw has been put in place by China without any expectation of quid pro quo, and in a context where the creation of foreign companies in the country has also recently been facilitated.”
Until now, most visitors had to obtain a visa to enter the country.
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