Chinese travel industry welcomes the end of strict COVID-19 travel controls

Virologists from around the world are looking on from afar, as China decides to drop its quarantine for those overseas visitors with work and study visas.

Despite hospitals across the country struggling with the latest surge in cases, Beijing’s decision will come to fruition on 8 January.

But for those in the tourism sector, the travel curb news comes as a breath of fresh air. China has had one of the strictest border regulations since March 2020.

"We are very happy to receive this announcement because we have already been three years with almost all business on pause," travel agent Liu Jing, owner of Amazing Travel travel agency, said.

"We hope that from now on they will return to the level of 2019."

Before the pandemic, more than 20 employees worked at Amazing Travel travel agency. Now there are only 10.

”Since this morning, we have received many inquiries from our customers via Wechat, email, and phone.

"They are asking whether they can travel abroad normally again, whether quarantine will be necessary on their return, and when international tourism will resume," Jing explained.

At its most extreme, the quarantine period was a strict 28-day period in China. Currently at eight days for those entering the country, that will now be scrapped from 8 January onwards.

Priority will be given to those with working or student visas, or Chinese citizens looking to see family members. Whether it will be open to foreign tourism is not yet clear.

Airlines in China are operating at just five percent of the activity they had in 2019, before the pandemic. The shortage of flights and restrictions on airlines have left airfares sky-high.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong will drop almost all of its COVID-19 rules - including vaccine pass systems and mask-wearing in public spaces.