International travelers can once again visit China on group tours after a three-year suspension. Starting on March 31, tourism service providers are permitted to offer inbound group tours and travel packages including flight tickets and hotels, according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
The move came as part of China's efforts to facilitate cross-border travel after it adjusted its management of COVID-19 in early January. Strict prevention and control measures targeting the most transmissible and deadly infectious diseases such as the plague, including mandatory quarantine or lockdowns, no longer apply to it.
Domestic and outbound tours had already been resumed earlier. China's tourism market is now poised to embark on an all-round recovery.
Tourism has become an essential contributor to China's economy since the beginning of the country's reform and opening up in 1978. Over the past four decades, the emergence of a well-off middle class and easier access for international visitors both have buoyed this boom. The Chinese tourism sector has transformed itself into one of the world's major inbound and outbound tourist markets. With inbound group travel now resuming after being put on hold by the pandemic, the sector is set to reclaim its status as a pillar of the Chinese economy.
But like domestic and outbound travels, inbound tours call for overall planning and dedicated efforts. The sector must not only recover from the impact of the pandemic as soon as possible, but also improve its services to achieve long-term development and secure competitive advantages.
The reboot of China's inbound travel market requires deeper integration and interaction with the world. The government should convey more confidence to the industry and encourage business entities to bring their initiatives into full play.
Breaking new ground is key. Services should be designed with an international vision to offer inbound travelers a more gratifying experience. It is necessary to adapt to emerging trends such as city tours exploring the urban scenery, health tours featuring traditional Chinese medicine as well as food tours starring Chinese cuisine. Culture and tourism can be further integrated in the creation of destinations covering the arts and other, more diversified themes.