Temper expectations for return of China

China announced this week that it would scrap quarantine for foreign arrivals from Jan 8, 2023. It is big news, as China has maintained a strict zero-Covid regime for almost three years, cutting traffic past its borders down to only absolutely necessary cases.

Many in the travel and tourism industry expect China’s reopening to begin some time in 2023, with different opinion leaders projecting different points in the year.

The giant returning to the travel and tourism party is certainly progress, but the impact on business will take time to show. Flights have to return and airfares stabilised enough to not make an average man weep. A quick search on Google for a Singapore-Beijing roundtrip on January 9, a day after quarantine barriers are removed, shows up economy fares of S$3,005 and up.

Manpower must be brought back to handle the wave of travel enquiries, passport renewals, visa applications, passenger traffic and all necessary procedures to make travel possible for the Chinese.

And with China battling fresh waves of Covid infections now, destinations may not see the throng of Chinese travellers they have dreamt of for three years come Jan 2023. Dampening initial recovery are also moves by governments elsewhere to restrict Chinese entry out of infection fears – Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia and Italy are stepping up surveillance. India too, but not just for arriving Chinese travellers. News reports state the US and the Philippines are considering the same as well.

But hey, the world has waited three long years for big market China to return to travel. We can afford to wait a little more for it to find its footing.

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