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Asia Minute: Outlook for outbound Chinese travel depends on uncertain factors

China Holiday Travel
Mark Schiefelbein/AP
A child sits on a suitcase at Beijing West Railway Station in Beijing, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023. China in December lifted its strict "zero-COVID" policy, letting loose a wave of pent-up travel desire, particularly around China's most important time for family gatherings, referred to in China as the Spring Festival, that may be the only time in the year when urban workers return to their hometowns.

In the years immediately prior to the outbreak of COVID, Chinese tourists represented a growing number of visitors to regional destinations from Japan to Singapore.

But re-starting tourism from China is more complicated than flipping a switch.

China has dropped its COVID restrictions, and the virus is surging, while many countries have instituted testing requirements before allowing Chinese visitors into their countries.

China’s government has retaliated, in the cases of Japan and South Korea, by restricting visas for most visitors.

But it’s not just about visas and COVID — there’s the economic health of Chinese travelers.

This week, China reported economic growth of 3% for 2022.

With the exception of 2020, that’s the weakest growth for the country in nearly 50 years.

The economic outlook matches expectations for travel: uncertain and dependent on a number of unpredictable factors.

The President of the Philippines said recently that he will "push for the resumption of tourism" with China and Indonesia's Tourism Minister has said that Chinese visitors will play an important part in rebuilding their country's economy.

Additionally, Thailand's Tourism Ministry is rolling out special deals to welcome Chinese travelers over the Lunar New Year.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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