WTTC hits ‘knee-jerk’ travel rules on Chinese travelers


A GLOBAL organization of private tourism and travel stakeholders threw shade at several governments for imposing restrictions on Chinese outbound travelers.

Julia Simpson, president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) welcomed the reopening of mainland China to international travel, noting, “Chinese visitors around the world contributed US$253 billion to the global economy in 2019, creating jobs and boosting regional economies. The recovery of the Chinese travel and tourism sector is very welcome.”

However, she stressed, “Introducing knee-jerk travel restrictions shows governments have learned nothing about the behavior of this virus and continue to ignore the World Health Organization’s advice that border restrictions do not stop the virus mutating or moving around the globe. The reintroduction of ineffective Covid testing to Chinese travelers is a step backwards for the global travel and tourism sector.”

Among the governments that imposed additional testing rules on arriving Chinese travelers are those of the United States, Japan, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, Israel, Morocco, Qatar, Australia, India, Malaysia, South Korea, and Taiwan. Philippine lawmakers and tourism stakeholders earlier called for stepped-up testing protocols for Chinese tourists, but Manila has said enough rules are already in place to ferret out the Covid-positive among international travelers, no matter the nationality. (See, “DOT, DOH: Existing protocols are fine, amid China Covid fears,” in the BusinessMirror, December 30, 2022)

Stricter Covid test to enter China

The Philippines requires unvaccinated travelers, regardless of nationality, to only submit a negative result from an antigen test taken 24 hours from departure. The vaccinated merely have to present their vaccination certification certificates or an international certificate of vaccination or prophylaxis (yellow card). In contrast, Filipinos and other nationalities traveling to mainland China, vaccinated or otherwise, have to submit a negative result from an RT-PCR test taken 48 hours prior to departure.

As this developed, the Department of Tourism (DOT) celebrates the arrival today of Xiamen Airlines flight MF819 from Xiamen, bringing an estimated 190 Chinese tourists.

China’s Ambassador to Manila Huang Xilian is expected to join Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco and Manila International Airport Authority Cesar Chiong in welcoming the Chinese tourists.

Xiamen Air closed its office in Manila during the pandemic, but the carrier restarted its flights to the capital in October, with two flights a week. It began its daily service on January 17, using a Boeing 738. Pioneering flag carrier Philippine Airlines has also started operating its own once-a-week flights between Manila and  Xiamen on January 13, but will code-share with Xiamen Air for the summer season, from April and October.

110-M outbound trips

According to the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute as cited by Bloomberg, Chinese outbound trips are likely to reach 110 million this year, just 67 percent less than their pre-pandemic 2019 level.

ForwardKeys, a research firm aggregating global ticketing data, earlier reported that outbound flight bookings by Chinese travelers jumped by 192 percent between December 26, 2022 and January 3, 2023, compared to the same period in the previous year. It added, 67 percent of these bookings were for travel during the Lunar New Year vacation period from January 21 to 27. The Lunar New Year began on Sunday, January 22.

“Currently, the most popular return trips are to Macau, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Frankfurt,” said ForwardKeys(See, “Chinese tourists celebrating Lunar New Year elsewhere except in the Philippines,” in the BusinessMirror, January 16, 2023.)