China reopens to tourists and resumes visa-free travel to Hainan

But experts are in no hurry to associate this with the resumption of tourism -hajnan-5d4b25e.jpg” alt=”China reopens to tourists and resumes visa-free travel to Hainan” />

Foreigners will be able to apply for a tourist visa to China from March 15. The local Foreign Ministry said that China is resuming the acceptance of documents for all types of visas. In addition, entry to Hainan for citizens of 59 states, including Russia, will be visa-free. You can stay on the island for up to 30 days.

Plus, visa-free entry from Hong Kong and Macau to Guangdong and visa-free entry for ASEAN tourist groups to Guilin, Guangxi will be restored.

Also, foreign citizens will be able to enter the Celestial Empire with documents issued before March 28, 2020, if their validity has not yet expired.

So far, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not clarified whether changes will be made to the visa waiver policy or whether it will remain in the same format as it was before the coronavirus pandemic.

Recall that last December in China began to gradually lift the restrictions imposed due to the spread of covid. Against the background of concessions, Russian carriers began to announce new flights from different cities to the Chinese provinces.

According to experts, this is good news, but it has nothing to do with tourism yet. There are still a number of obstacles for a full-fledged tourist flow in both directions. As Sergei Jan Sha said, the company's partners are not yet sending invitations for visas, as there are no regulations at the moment. In addition, in the consular departments of the Chinese Embassy in the Russian Federation, the queue for business visas has already stretched into May. Business tourists are forced to fly first to Hong Kong via Istanbul or Dubai, and then to Guangzhou, where they can stay up to 6 days in transit without a visa.

The visa-free intergovernmental agreement has not yet been renewed. According to experts, this is due to the abolition of the Rostourism and the fact that the information system (SIS), which unites everyone who was involved in sending and receiving tourists to/from China, has ceased to work. “Moreover, the new version of the intergovernmental agreement was not ratified due to the fact that it contains inconsistencies with the legislative framework of the Russian Federation. Now it is being finalized,” Sergey Jan Sha explained.

The expert believes that even when the visa-free exchange is established, at first the flow of tourists in both directions will be small. First, because it is expensive for both Russians and Chinese. The shortage of flights has led to an increase in the price of tickets, which now cost about 45-50 thousand rubles round trip.

Ground handling in China has also risen in price by 40% compared to the pre-pandemic period. Prices have risen for everything: transport, guides, meals, excursions and entrance tickets. As a result, a five-day tour that used to cost $900 now costs $1,400.  The cost of a business visa ranges from 30 to 50 thousand rubles. For the Chinese, the visa has also increased in price and now costs $150.

“It is clear that tourists will not travel at such prices. Business trips will be in demand. Hainan Island will only be in demand for tourism if the government resumes subsidizing charter flights. But here another problem may arise – China cannot guarantee that these planes will not be detained at the request of third countries,” Sergei Zhang Sha noted.

The first tourists from China who came to Russia faced the problem of withdrawing rubles from their bank cards in Russia. They do not carry a lot of cash with them, and a trip without the opportunity to buy something will not be interesting for them. The Russians will have the same problem. Union pay cards are expensive. In addition, not all cards issued in Russia work abroad.  The Ministry of Economic Development is going to issue maps for foreign tourists, but this issue is still being resolved.

Another problem is the lack of qualified guides. With the onset of the pandemic, they began to work in another area, and now it will be difficult to return them to this area. Moreover, given the difficulties in obtaining certification in our country.

Most of these problems are at the interstate level, and it will take time to solve them, experts conclude. Therefore, in the best scenario, tour flows in both directions will resume only by the summer.

We add that against the backdrop of the news about the restart of tourism, some Russian carriers have already announced flights to China. Thus, S7 Airlines today announced the resumption of direct regular flights from Irkutsk to Beijing and from Novosibirsk to Urumqi from May 27.

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