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China to ease visa requirements for U.S. travelers in latest bid to boost tourism


China will ease visa restrictions for people visiting from the United States, the country's latest effort to attract foreign travelers since reopening its borders earlier this year.

Starting Jan. 1, American tourists will no longer need to submit round-trip air tickets, proof of hotel reservations, itineraries or invitations to China, according to a notice posted online Friday by the Chinese Embassy in Washington.

The simplified application process is intended to “further facilitate people-to-people exchanges between China and the United States,” the notice said.

The move comes as China has struggled to rejuvenate its tourism sector after three years of strict pandemic measures, which included mandatory quarantines for all arrivals. While those restrictions were lifted earlier this year, international travelers have been slow to return.

In the first half of this year, China recorded 8.4 million entries and exits by foreigners, down from 977 million for all of 2019, the last year before the pandemic, according to immigration statistics.

In another bid to boost tourism, China announced last month that it would allow visa-free entry for citizens of France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Malaysia for up to 15 days.

The one-year trial program signaled China’s “high-level opening up to the outside world,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a daily briefing.

But China’s efforts to entice American tourists may face other headwinds. International flights between the two countries, which are set by a bilateral agreement, remain well below pandemic levels, though they have slowly increased in recent months.

Over the summer, amid deteriorating relations between Beijing and Washington, the U.S. recommended Americans reconsider traveling to China, citing the risk of wrongful detentions and exit bans.

“The People’s Republic of China (PRC) government arbitrarily enforces local laws, including issuing exit bans on U.S. citizens and citizens of other countries, without fair and transparent process under the law,” the advisory said.