China makes efforts to recover visitors – 04/01/2024 – Market

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It is possible to fly regularly today from São Paulo to Beijing by changing planes in Africa, the Middle East, Europe, with connections that result in journeys lasting close to or even longer than 30 hours.

A month from now, on April 28, Air China will make what is being evaluated as the longest flight with the same Boeing 787 aircraft and a single stop, in Madrid, Spain. This would reduce the journey to Beijing to 22 hours and 25 minutes.

Daniela Tassy, ​​a resident of the Chinese capital who produced a video showing the “saga” of a trip she took, says that having an alternative like this “is great”. “I’m from Andradina, in the interior of São Paulo, I still have to catch a ten-hour bus.” For her, “having a faster Brazil-China flight will greatly boost tourism.”

On the other hand, Andréa Pizzato, a Brazilian living in the country for more than a decade, hailed the flight with one stop and the same aircraft as “the best”, but remembers that there were “many more options before the pandemic”, which have not yet returned.

Air China’s announcement is part of the effort to reopen the country to foreign visitors. On the streets and on public transport in Beijing and even Shanghai, more than a year after the end of restrictions to contain the pandemic, it is still rare to come across non-Orientals. Western tourists who have already returned stay mostly in central neighborhoods, such as Sanlitun.

Throughout 2023, the national immigration agency recorded 35.5 million entries and exits of foreigners, 36% of the 97.7 million registered in 2019, the year before the arrival of Covid-19.

The still slow recovery of tourism, including business, led to a series of stimulus initiatives, from expanding flights to removing bureaucratic requirements for entry into the country.

Towards the end of the year, the proof of vaccination and then the health declaration, which so exasperated visitors, dropped, and the processes for applying for a visa were simplified — although not enough, according to the reports heard.

Payment applications WeChat and Alipay, which replace cash in the country’s daily life, now accept linking with foreign credit cards. Under government stimulus, paper money itself became more accepted again, including by taxi drivers.

The action considered most significant came gradually, with the lifting of the visa requirement for visits of up to 15 days from a growing number of countries, almost all of them European. Permission is given without requiring reciprocity from the favored country (as Brazil has also done during the Jair Bolsonaro and Lula governments).

It started with Norway, in November. In December, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain, plus Malaysia, in Southeast Asia. Next came Thailand and Singapore, but in these cases there was reciprocity. Two weeks ago, Ireland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria and Hungary were added.

In announcing these last six Europeans, Foreign Minister Wang Yi described the move as a way to “make foreign friends feel at home in China.”

German Hannah Eywezo, questioned in Sanlitun, said she took advantage of her visa exemption for a 12-day visit to her brother, who works in Beijing. Regarding the reduction of bureaucracy at the entrance, she commented: “It was easy! This time it was really easy.”

Voices in the press and in Chinese “think tanks” (study centers) are now arguing that the visa should also be scrapped for the United States, starting with young people, with the argument that it is a way of countering the noisy Sinophobia of a large part of the population. American politicians.

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There is still no prospect of this happening, especially because Washington has been resisting the resumption of more flights between the two countries, as Beijing wants. It is also not expected that the lifting of the visa will reach Brazilians soon.

In the case of American tourists and business travelers, other requirements were no longer required as of January, such as presenting proof of invitation or reservation of accommodation and return flight.

With the accumulation of measures, signs of recovery continue to evolve. In the first months of this year, the volume of entry and exit of foreigners has already reached 41.5% of what was recorded in the same period, before the pandemic.

Given the greater presence of Germans and other Europeans, observed especially during the Chinese New Year holidays, at the beginning of February, the government’s assessment is that the most effective tool has been not to require a visa.

The effort to bring visitors back is not just for economic purposes. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has been stating that greater exchange would help reduce growing conflicts, especially with Europeans and Americans.

Wang, the chancellor, started to advocate that the beneficiary countries do the same. “We hope more countries will offer visa exemptions to Chinese citizens and work with us to encourage the accelerated resumption of passenger flights,” he said. Xi himself seems willing to set an example. In May he goes to France, on his first trip to Europe in five years.

The article is in Portuguese

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