China reopening borders to foreign tourists for first time since Covid erupted

China is to resume issuing visas to foreign tourists for the first time since the Covid pandemic broke out three years ago.

The major easing of restrictions comes after Beijing declared victory over the virus and retreats from a zero-Covid strategy that has hurt its economy.

Valid visas issued before China closed to the world on 28 March 2020 will be honoured starting on 15 March.

Visa-free entry will resume in Hainan Island and Shanghai for cruise ships.

Tour groups from Hong Kong and Macau will be allowed visa-free-entry while Chinese consular offices abroad will also resume processing visa applications.

The removal of the last cross-border restrictions imposed to tackle Covid marks a major step towards the resumption of normal life in post-pandemic China.

Tens of millions of international visitors came to China each year prior to the pandemic, and its tourism industry has been hard hit by strict anti-Covid measures.

But the country can expect a significant increase in international arrivals, after it reopens its borders, analysts say.

Chinese citizens will also be allowed to travel on tour groups to 60 countries, up from 20 previously.

China said its gross domestic product grew just 3% in 2022, the worst in nearly half a century.

For the current year, Beijing has set a 5% target with new Premier Li Qiang saying that the world’s second largest economy is stabilising and picking up again.

The zero-Covid policy that was lifted in December sparked rare protests against China’s leader, Xi Jinping.

He has since solidified his grip on power in the Communist Party and secured a record third term as president.

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