China relaxes visa restrictions for European citizens

Beijing – Business event companies in China are optimistic the resumption of new visa applications for European citizens, suspended since March 28 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, bodes well for the return of international travellers soon.

In early August, China announced eligible foreign nationals from 36 European countries can apply for free new Chinese visas without having to submit an invitation letter

Meanwhile, European and Chinese carriers are expanding services. Air France is planning to restart flights to Beijing, having relaunched twice-weekly services to Shanghai in June; Air China has resumed direct flights from Chengdu to Frankfurt; while Lufthansa is looking to operate some flights from Shanghai and Nanjing to Frankfurt and Zurich in September.

China and the EU have also been stepping up economic and trade ties in recent weeks.

Violet Wang, China head at Pacific World, commented the improvements in visa applications for Europeans is “definitely warming up the market”, even though there is no direct gain for business now as air capacity is still limited and there are 14-day quarantine measures are in place.

Wang said: “But the (resumption of visa applications for European citizens) is helping companies to make strategic decisions about launching international events in 4Q2020,” nothing that shows like CIIE (China International Import Expo) 2020, taking place in Shanghai from November 5-19, is on track.

Also eyeing a return of international travellers and new markets, Sarah Keenlyside, CEO and founder, Bespoke Travel Company, plans to include Europe in its incentive travel marketing plans.

Keenlyside explained: “Previously, we received a lot of American business, so we focused the majority of our marketing efforts on that region. We now plan to shift that focus to Europe and other Asian countries.”

“I think the (resumption of visa applications for European citizens) is a good sign,” declared Alicia Yao, general manager of IM&E Consulting, adding that the seven-day validity of Covid-19-free tests imposed by China would allow international meeting groups of 300 to 1,000 delegates to return by end-2020 or early 2012.

Yao shared that numbers from Spain and Germany are coming back and there is business travel demand from Austria, Hungary and Greece.

“What is most important is for DMCs to implement an SOP that ensures hygiene safety to prevent virus infection throughout the journey and for participants to keep good social distancing during teambuilding activities,” she noted. (TTG)