Providing a boost to inbound travel, China has implemented a new visa-free policy for passports holders from five European countries, as well as Malaysia. Jenny Southan reports

China’s new visa-free travel policy was instated on December 1, 2023, and will last for one year. Those benefiting need to hold passports for France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain or Malaysia.

The policy applies to trips of up to 15 days for business travel, tourism, visiting relatives and friends and for transitioning within China. The aim of this policy is to create convenience for passport holders from these countries in order to stimulate inbound tourism.

According to booking data from Dida Travel, since the implementation of the recent visa-free policy, hotel bookings from the six countries named increased by over 50 per cent in the first week of December, in comparison to the previous week.

In fact, hotel bookings for travellers from Spain to China hve jumped by more than 100 per cent compared to the same period at the end of November. Bookings from Italy and Malaysia to China saw an increase of 50 per cent and 67 per cent week-on-week, respectively.

Meanwhile, although the wider Chinese inbound market has not yet recovered to pre-pandemic levels due in part to the fact that China’s borders only fully opened in early 2023, DidaTravel’s year-to-date inbound hotel sales to China have seen a remarkable 151 per cent growth versus the same period in 2019. This highlights DidaTravel’s ability to outpace wider market dynamics and capture significant new market share.

According to DidaTravel’s year-to-date total transaction value, Spain, Malaysia, and Italy have been among the top 20 source markets for inbound China travel in 2023. The most booked destinations in China are Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Xiamen, Suzhou, Langfang, Dongguan and Wuhan.

Rikin Wu, founder and CEO of Dida Travel, says: “We were really excited about the growth opportunity for China’s inbound tourism sector as result of this news and these initial figures are very encouraging.
“Thanks to proactive policies like this, that create a strong business environment for tourism, we are able to unlock the full potential of the demand that exists to experience China.

“As one of the pioneering B2B hotel distributors in China, we are committed to supporting our global partners with our expertise and leading portfolio of products in China – including not only hotels, but also tours, experiences and transfers. We look forward to welcoming visitors from all over the world and exploring new opportunities for collaboration within the country’s ever evolving tourism industry.”