Half an hour after China’s announcement that it was dropping quarantine requirements for international arrivals and allowing outbound travel for Chinese citizens, the country’s largest travel online travel agency, Ctrip, showed a 10-fold jump in searches for outbound destinations, a sure sign of citizens’ eagerness to begin traveling again.
Now, a week later, the country is lashing out at the dozen nations placing “discriminatory” Covid restrictions on travelers departing from China, saying it amounted to “political manipulation.”
“We do not believe the entry restriction measures some countries have taken against China are science-based,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said Tuesday at a regular press briefing in Beijing. “Some of these measures are disproportionate and simply unacceptable. We firmly reject using Covid measures for political purposes and will take corresponding measures in response to varying situations via the principle of reciprocity.”
Beginning Sunday, January 8, inbound travelers to China will be required to show only a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours before departure. This is a significant relaxation of China’s “zero-Covid” strategy. Foreign travelers have essentially been barred from entering China since 2020, with some exceptions for business or those visiting family members.
But a growing number of countries are hesitant to welcome travelers from China, citing the high rate of Covid infections in China and a lack of information on variants as causes for concern.
The United States will begin requiring Covid-19 tests on travelers from China beginning on January 5. All air passengers aged two and older will need a negative result from a test taken within 48 hours before departure from China, Hong Kong or Macau.
Just three days before China’s announcement, the U.S. State Department had reissued its Level 3 travel advisory, encouraging Americans to reconsider travel to China, Hong Kong and Macau “due to the surge in COVID-19 cases, arbitrary enforcement of local laws, and COVID-19-related restrictions.”
From an economic standpoint, splurge-prone Chinese tourists are highly prized, as they tend to outspend visitors from other countries by a wide margin. In pre-pandemic 2018, for example, China’s 3 million visitors spent over $36 billion, according to data from the U.S. Travel Association. Comparatively, Canada’s 21.2 million visitors spent $22.1 billion in the U.S. that same year.
“We look forward to welcoming Chinese travelers back to the United States. The Biden administration’s highly targeted Covid testing approach is reasonable and appreciated,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman in a statement.
Covid test requirements for travelers from China will also be imposed in Canada, France, Great Britain, Italy and Spain. Across Asia and the Pacific Rim, Covid testing will be required for travelers from China to Japan, Australia, Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea and India.
In northern Africa, Morocco is taking a harsher stance; it is banning arrivals from China beginning today.