Washington - After a strict COVID-19 lockdown that shattered its tourism industry between 2020 and 2022, China is trying to revive the market by making it easier for foreigners to visit the country.
Under a new set of visa application requirements announced this week, applicants only must report one year of travel history instead of five years, as previously required.
"The improvement involves seven major items and 15 sub-items, concerning mainly the applicants' educational background, family information and previous travel history," said Mao Ning, a spokesperson for China's foreign ministry, at a press briefing on Wednesday.
In addition, until now, visa applicants had to report their entire educational background. The new guidelines require only the highest degree achieved.
The changes are expected to shorten the time it takes to fill out and process visa applications.
"The foreign ministry will continue to facilitate people-to-people exchange between China and other countries and serve high-quality development and high-level opening up," Mao said.
More than 65 million international visitors traveled to China in 2019, yielding the country nearly $900 billion in revenue, according to China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
There has been no official data about foreign travelers visiting China from 2020 to 2022, when the country enforced a strict COVID-19 quarantine regime and shut all domestic and foreign travel.
Tourists visit the Bund waterfront area in Shanghai, China, July 5, 2023.
Tourism revenue has reportedly dropped by more than 60% in the past three years.
Unlike other countries that top the list of most visited places in the world such as the United States, the United Kingdom and France, China does not allow visa-free entry to visitors from most countries.
Meanwhile, more Chinese are travelling abroad for leisure and education.
In 2019, China was reportedly the world's largest outbound tourism market with Chinese visitors spending $127.5 billion on foreign travels.
Between January and May this year, 1 million Chinese tourists visited Thailand, where officials expect to welcome more than 5 million Chinese visitors this year, Reuters reported.
The number of Chinese visiting the United States dropped from 2.8 million in 2019 to 192,000 in 2021 during the height of COVID-19 restrictions. The number of Chinese visitors to the United States is expected to increase from 850,000 this year to nearly 1.4 million in 2024, according to the U.S. National Travel & Tourism Office.
Some material for this report was obtained from Reuters.