Europeans flock to China with visa-free access

Updated: Dec 6, 2023 Xinhua Print
Share - WeChat

Under a visa-free entry policy effective from Friday, ordinary passport holders from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Malaysia are now able to enjoy visa-free travel to China for up to 15 days.

The policy, with a trial period from Dec 1, 2023 to Nov 30, 2024, was widely viewed as a boost to inbound tourism for China and a bridge for people-to-people exchanges, particularly with more Europeans planning their trip to this exotic country. It also marks a tangible move by China in pushing for high-level opening-up.

Easier access

"This is indeed a very good policy. I hope that this policy can encourage tourists to travel to China again" after the difficult period of the COVID-19 pandemic, a French arts consultant who only gave his name as Jean-Pierre, told Xinhua.

The 72-year-old professional heard the news from his Chinese friends first. Prior to the pandemic, he made frequent trips to China, visiting such cities as Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Harbin, and Jinhua. Impressed by the hospitality of the people and nice travel experience there, he hopes to "revisit these cities as soon as conditions permit."

A French musician by the name of Fabien told Xinhua that the policy came out just in time as he was planning to go to Beijing to further his learning of Peking Opera, and also to Southwest China's Yunnan province for tourism.

"It's much easier to organize a trip on the spur of the moment or if the opportunity arises over a week or two," he said. "I can't wait to go back and learn what I needed to learn there and improve my Chinese too."

For 69-year-old French pensioner by the name of Irene, the new policy prods her to make another journey to China soon. Recalling her last visit to China, Irene voiced hope of visiting more provincial capitals and taking the express train between different cities. "China is a really attractive country for us here in France."

Italian resident Sebastiano Brusco told Xinhua that he has a China visit on his agenda, and this "good" and "necessary" policy helps people "visit China very easily."

Commenting on the new policy, Veronica Carrara in Rome told Xinhua that it is long-awaited good news.

"China is a beautiful country with a long history. You still have what came from the ancient times, and you don't forget the origins," she said. "That's why people should be able to visit China to learn from the Chinese how tradition is carried on."

"China has various aspects that attract me, both its urban and rural landscapes as well as its political life. Traveling to China offers the opportunity for firsthand experience and observation. And now, with the visa exemption, it's even more accessible," a fourth-year school student surnamed Jan told Xinhua in Berlin.

Opportunity to know real China

Since the beginning of this year, Chinese inbound and outbound travel have both increased. According to Trip.com, in the first ten months of 2023, long-haul inbound travel, particularly from Europe, surpassed pre-pandemic levels. One day after the new visa-free measure was announced, visits to Trip.com's "China Travel Guide" Web page have surged by over 30 percent.

An increasing number of people are interested in knowing China and there is no better way than seeing the country with their own eyes.

"China has always been a focus for us and a country that's always in our internationalization plans because it's not only a country with great potential, as in some technologies it's ahead of us, but a country where our companies must seek presence," said Josep Maria Gomes, an international business developer with the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce in Spain.

"Tourism is also necessary to reveal a reality," he said. "Travel and visiting China can help dispel those cliches that very often are not true."

In the view of Luigi Gambardella, president of ChinaEU, a business-led international digital association in Brussels, the visa exemption for travelers from the major European economies will also facilitate managers of small and medium-sized enterprises to travel to China for business, exhibitions, and so on, which will also enhance confidence in investing in China.

"People need to gain first-hand experience to have a real understanding of a different country and a different culture. Many people's visits to China have changed their stereotypes of China," said Gambardella.

The visa-free policy represents a significant step towards global collaboration and understanding. "Such an extension would not only benefit a larger cohort of travelers but also mark a significant stride towards a more inclusive and cooperative international community," the business leader added.

Many believe that the visa-exempt policy offers more flexibility and freedom, allowing travelers to explore and experience at ease without pre-planning visas, and enabling businessmen and employees to make last-minute trips for meetings, conferences and negotiations without going through the hassle at consulates.

According to China's National Immigration Administration, 2,029 people from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Malaysia entered China without a visa on Friday, Day One of the visa-free policy. The number of arrivals from these six countries increased by over 12 percent from the previous day.

"China is such a beautiful country with great diversity. However, Westerners only know those typical cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Xi'an," Gambardella noted, adding that so many beautiful Chinese cities are worth visiting and are waiting to be explored by an inrush of international guests.

Copyright©2024 China Daily. All rights reserved.


京公网安备 11010502032503号 京公网安备 11010502032503号