Earlier this week, China has announced it will be effectively dropping mandatory quarantine for people coming into the country from abroad, which has led to a surge in searches for international travel form its own residents.
Although there were no specific restrictions from other countries, Chinese people were weary of travelling abroad due to the long quarantine period they would face when returning home. Currently, the rule is “5+3”, meaning people coming into China have to spend 5 days quarantining in a designated hotel or medical facility and then 3 days quarantining at home. Speculations of the rule changing to “0+3” broke out earlier this week, with officials confirming the change will take effect on 8 January soon after.
As per the new rules, even when testing positive, people will only need to quarantine at home for 3 days (or hotel in case of tourists, but not the officially designated Covid hotels). As soon as the news was officially announced, travel and tourism operators reported searches for trips abroad skyrocketed to a three year high.
The results were immediate, travel platform Ctrip reporting that, within 30 minutes of the announcement, searches for overseas destinations increased by 10 times. On Chinese travel agency Qunar’s website, searches for international flights increased by 7 times in the first 15 minutes of the news. Japan, Thailand and South Korea are the most searched for international destinations from Chinese people, followed by the US, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and the UK.
Before the pandemic, China was the largest outbound tourism market in the world, its people spending $127.5 billion abroad in 2019, according to Reuters. But in early 2020, the government stopped issuing passports for citizens, the country being more or less closed to the world for almost three years now.
Although a small spike in travelling abroad is expected, especially around the Lunar New Year, a usually popular travel period, a full recovery is not foreseen any time soon. Many people are still unsure of what the evolution of the restrictions will be and do not want to take the risk of travelling any time soon.
Moreover, with the borders opening, a new wave of infections has started spreading across the country, prompting many international destinations to re-introduce testing requirements for visitors coming from China. Despite insistence from Italy, which is the first European country to introduce testing requirements for people coming rom China, the EU has refused to introduce bloc-wide measures, the ECDC calling “screenings and travel measures on travellers from China unjustified”.