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Chinese are snapping up flights abroad as Beijing drops more travel restrictions

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As Beijing lifts restrictions on re-entry from abroad, Chinese are rushing to book their overseas travel.

Minutes after authorities announced this week that they would be ending quarantine and testing requirements for incoming passengers, the country’s top travel sites were inundated with searches and bookings for international flights.

A race for the exit erupts as China lifted domestic COVID restrictions earlier this month, triggering a massive wave of infections across a country that had had little or no virus for much of the pandemic due to strict control measures. Did.

Searches on major online travel platform Qunar reportedly soared nearly 700% on Monday, shortly after the return requirements were eased. Bookings on the main platform operated by Trip.com (TCOM), which owns Qunar, reportedly surged more than 300% on Tuesday from the day before.

Fliggy, the travel platform of Alibaba Group Holding (9988.HK), saw overseas flight searches surge by more than 800% this week, while inbound search inquiries hit a three-year high, according to Chinese media Guancha. reported.

Most travelers seem to be heading to foreign locations within the region. According to Trip.com data, the top destinations include Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Beijing-based animator Li Yuanyuan said he bought a round-trip ticket to Phuket, where he spent his beach vacation in Thailand in mid-January.

Li said he traveled abroad at least once a year before the pandemic and before China’s strict border restrictions. COVID chaos. ”

China is experiencing the world’s largest explosion of COVID infections, with an estimated more than one million people per day, according to the minutes released at last week’s meeting of China’s National Health Commission.

China had been in lockdown from the world for almost the entire duration of the pandemic, so there was little natural immunity until earlier this month when authorities suddenly lifted domestic restrictions such as central isolation of patients, daily testing and necessities. Display a digital “green pass” for admission to most public facilities.

On Monday, officials said foreign arrivals would no longer be subject to quarantine after Jan. 8, and airlines that brought in passengers who tested positive would not be penalized.

Inbound travelers will also no longer need health code approval from overseas Chinese embassies and will no longer need to undergo a PCR test upon arrival. However, the passenger must present evidence of a negative nucleic acid test result at least 48 hours before his flight departure.

The Chinese New Year, often referred to as the world’s largest domestic migration period, begins on January 21st and lasts through February. Traditionally, workers and students gather in their hometowns during the holidays to feast with extended families and present red envelopes filled with fruit, liquor and cash.

However, some Chinese workers told MarketWatch that they will refrain from returning home next month and will instead use their vacations to travel abroad.

“I have spent the last three years [Chinese] I will celebrate the New Year in my hometown with my parents and grandparents,” said Yang Yi, a 27-year-old masseuse from the western metropolis of Chengdu. “This year, I will finally meet my friends in Seoul.

With so few international flights operating in China, inbound and outbound ticket prices remained exorbitant for most of the pandemic. However, prices will normalize in the coming months and departures and arrivals in China will peak next summer, Lan Xiang, head of data research at Qunar, told Chinese media this week.

But with China’s explosive rise in infections and years of restrictions on foreign visitors to Japan, other countries appear to be raising the bar for future Chinese travelers.

Following Monday’s announcement, Japan, India, Italy and South Korea all said they would impose stricter COVID testing requirements for tourists from China.

 

(Closed) Dow Jones Newswire

12-27-22 1806ET

Copyright (c) 2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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