IN THE first significant sign that China might be looking to restore its tourism sector after a two-and-half year absence, the country has drawn up a draft proposal to resume a limited number of tours to some of its border regions.
The first tentative step back after having its borders firmly shut since the March 2020 was announced by the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism this week, albeit with little meat on the bones in the way of timelines and destinations.
What we do know is that tours are likely to follow the Japanese model of group tours initially, and be run through an approved list of Chinese tour operators for a select number of sanctioned source countries.
Up until now, China has only permitted inbound visitors holding specific work visas and foreign students with valid residence permits to enter the country, with its hard line on mitigating COVID resulting in stringent border policies and strict lockdowns of cities.
What interest there will be from Australian travellers to visit China during what has been an acute diplomatic crisis between the two countries remains to be seen, with logical doubts around whether or not Australia would even make China’s green list in light of ongoing international tensions.
Another gap to be filled will be around what visitors will be expected to complete in the way of quarantine, which currently mandates one week of hotel isolation and three days of home observation.
Tourism Australia might also be looking closely at the latest development, as it may represent a key step towards China allowing its citizens to take leisure trips overseas again.
Before the pandemic, Chinese tourists had risen to the top spot in Australia ahead of traditional leaders New Zealand, with the Chinese also representing a particularly strong spending category of visitor.
As a result of effectively losing the China market, Tourism Australia has since pivoted to focus its efforts on securing potential replacement source markets, including Japan, South Korea and India.
But in some heartening news for Australia’s tourism industry, China may not be lost to the our shores, with a recent study by Morning Consult showing that Australia is the third most popular destination on the list for Chinese citizens to visit when they are once again allowed to travel.