Payment convenience planned to strengthen inbound tourism

By YANG FEIYUE| China Daily| Updated: March 30, 2024

China has decided to launch a series of precise measures targeting the existing problems in its inbound tourism market.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism said it will promote the facilitation of payments in places such as tourist attractions, cultural and performance venues and star-rated hotels, enrich the supply of inbound tourism products and services, and step up market promotion abroad to better satisfy the needs of travelers to the country.

"We will focus on improving the convenience of payments at key tourist destinations," said Wu Kefeng, deputy head of the ministry's department of resource development, at a news conference on Friday in Beijing.

This includes promoting the establishment of necessary software and hardware facilities for accepting mobile payments, bank cards and cash at all national 5A and 4A tourist attractions, national and provincial tourist resorts, and in national-level tourist leisure districts, Wu said.

The goal is to create an inclusive and diverse payment environment, he added.

During the January-February period, nearly 2.95 million entries and exits of foreign nationals were recorded by the National Immigration Administration, according to statistics from the administration cited by the ministry at the news conference. The number is 41.5 percent of the prepandemic total.

In September, the State Council, China's Cabinet, released a State-level guideline to focus on the growth of tourism-related consumption and higher-quality development of the industry.

Earlier this month, the State Council released another guideline to continue optimizing payment services in the country. This guideline is aimed at providing higher-quality, more effective and more convenient payment services for senior citizens and foreign visitors.

On Friday, the ministry said it will actively cooperate with relevant departments to promote the establishment of foreign currency exchange service points at tourist resorts and in national-level tourist leisure districts with a high influx of inbound visitors, or encourage nearby bank branches to provide foreign currency exchange services, thereby better meeting the cash payment needs of inbound tourists.

All tourist attractions will offer offline ticketing services for inbound travelers, while online reservation services in English will also be available, Wu said.

"For reservations requiring realname authentication, foreign passports, permanent residence identity cards of foreigners and travel permits to the Chinese mainland for residents of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan will be included on the recognized list of identification documents," he said.

In addition, key tourist attractions will be urged to improve multilingual signage and guiding facilities, and continuously enhance their foreign language service capabilities.

With China's visa-free "circle of friends" expanding, foreigners are showing more willingness to travel to China.

On March 14, a visa-free policy was launched on trial basis for visitors from Switzerland, Ireland, Hungary, Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg.

According to the Foreign Ministry, ordinary passport holders from these nations can enter China without a visa for business, tourism, family visit and transit purposes till Nov 30, and stay up to 15 days at a stretch.

In November, a similar visa-free policy was implemented for travelers holding ordinary passports of France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Malaysia.

During the Spring Festival holiday period, the effects of China's visa-free policy became apparent, with a significant increase in visitors from countries newly added to the visa-free list, including France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Malaysia as well as Singapore.

The total volume of inbound tourism orders on some online travel agency platforms doubled compared with the same period in 2019, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism noted.

Since the beginning of the year, inbound tourism orders have increased more than threefold compared with the same period last year and 50 percent compared with 2019, said Qin Jing, vice-president of Shanghai-based online travel agency Group.

Inbound hotel bookings have increased more than threefold year-on-year, up over 70 percent compared with 2019, while inbound flight bookings have also seen a more than threefold increase year-on-year, up over 60 percent compared with 2019, Qin said.

"Countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, France, Germany and Italy, which have reached varying degrees of simplification in their visa application procedures with China, have been particularly active in the inbound and outbound market," she added. tracked destinations contributing to the maximum number of inbound travelers from the beginning of the year and the list includes Japan, the Republic of Korea, the United States, Australia and Malaysia.

Xu Xiaolei, chief brand officer of CYTS Tours Holding Co in Beijing, said that tour operators from abroad have spoken highly of China's visa-free policy and have indicated that they will focus on promoting the Chinese market in their future plans.

Cheng Chaogong, a senior researcher with the research institute of Jiangsu province-based online agency Tongcheng Travel, said the country's proactive measures to optimize entry policies are expected to have a positive demonstration effect on facilitating international personnel exchanges.

More countries and regions are expected to introduce further visa facilitation policies for Chinese citizens, which will lead to a bidirectional movement of inbound and outbound tourism in the next stage, Cheng said.