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China extends visa-free entry for 11 European countries until the end of 2025

China extends visa-free entry for 11 European countries until the end of 2025

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China’s visa-free scheme aims to boost tourism and international ties.


China has extended visa-free travel for 11 European countries and Malaysia until the end of 2025.

The visa-free scheme has been announced in stages since the start of 2024 and was initially set to last for one year. It aims to encourage more people to visit China for business and tourism, and promote exchanges between Chinese citizens and foreign nationals.

Citizens of Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland will now be allowed to enter the country without a visa until the end of next year.

The aim is “to facilitate the high-quality development of Chinese and foreign personnel exchanges and high-level opening up to the outside world,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a briefing on the initial announcement made in November.

Visa-free entry will be granted for up to 15 days in the trial programme.

International travel to China is yet to bounce back

China’s strict pandemic measures, which included required quarantines for all arrivals, discouraged many people from visiting for nearly three years. The restrictions were lifted early last year, but international travel has yet to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels.

China previously allowed citizens of Brunei, Japan and Singapore to enter without a visa but suspended that after the COVID-19 outbreak. It resumed visa-free entry for Brunei and Singapore in July but has not done so for Japan.

In 2023, China recorded 35.5 million entries and exits by foreigners, according to immigration statistics. That compares to 97.7 million for all of 2019, the last year before the pandemic.

The government has been seeking foreign investment to help boost a sluggish economy, and some businesspeople have been coming for trade fairs and meetings, including Tesla’s Elon Musk and Apple’s Tim Cook. Foreign tourists are still a rare sight compared to before the pandemic.

How else is China simplifying travel for Europeans?

Last year saw a surge in interest in China as a tourist destination among Europeans. 

Data from online travel agency Trip.com showed a 663 per cent increase in overall bookings from Europe to China compared to 2022, and an almost 29 per cent increase on 2019.

The United Kingdom and Germany were among the top 10 sources of inbound travellers to China globally, the data shows. 

Shanghai remains the most popular destination among Europeans with its alluring blend of modernity and tradition, followed by Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

Sanya, a beachside city on the southern end of China’s Hainan Island, and Chengdu – the capital of southwestern China’s Sichuan province – are emerging destinations. 

Beyond it’s new visa-free schemes, the country is further encouraging inbound tourism by promoting cultural and historical attractions in partnership with Trip.com. China is also enhancing tourism infrastructure by investing in technology, travel guides and e-payment systems.

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