Travel restrictions launched following the reopening of Chinese borders could be affecting where people book trips.
But it’s not out of spite, said several Chinese travelers who spoke to CNBC.
That’s because some countries won’t let them in, they said.
“I think it’s unfair”
Reactions from Chinese travelers who spoke to CNBC were varied, ranging from indifference to confusion to anger.
“Of course I think it’s unfair,” said one citizen, who asked to be called Bonnie. “But at the same time, we understand what’s going on.”
So far, more than a dozen countries have announced new rules for travelers departing from China. Last week, the European Union recommended that its members require Chinese travelers to take Covid tests before entering.
But Covid testing is not the problem, Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group, says “Squawk Box Asia” on Monday. It’s that “these policies are only directed at mainland Chinese,” he said.
South African Mansoor Mohamed, who lives in China, agreed. “It’s relatively easy and inexpensive to do a Covid test in China, so it won’t affect my travel planning,” he said.
“However, I know that many patriotic Chinese colleagues and friends will avoid these countries for now because the practice of only testing passengers from China is discriminatory,” he said.
Of course, China requires travelers to test negative before entering China, and has done so for three years.
The difference, says Mohamed, is that “every arrival [to China]including Chinese nationals… [is] subject to the same rules. »
where do the chinese go
Gao Dan told CNBC that she plans to leave Qinghai province for the first time in over two years. But she said she was staying in China, adding that she “did not review other countries’ travel policies,” according to a CNBC translation.
Others are booking trips abroad, but some are not to their top destinations of Japan and South Korea.
A traveler, named Bonnie, told CNBC that her friends in China are going to Thailand rather than South Korea, even though “they wouldn’t have considered Thailand” before.
Tuul & Bruno Morandi | The image bank | Getty Images
“When China said it was opening its borders in January, all my friends said they were going to Japan and Korea,” Bonnie said.
But they couldn’t get visas, she said. “So they are now going to Thailand.”
Rein said Chinese travelers are now heading to Singapore and Thailand because “both countries welcome us.”
Among the main destinations sought by Chinese nationals after the announcement of the reopening of borders, these are the only two that have not imposed new restrictions on inbound Chinese travelers.
Data shows that search interest in flights departing from mainland China increased by 83% in the 11 days following the announcement, compared to the previous 14 days, according to data from the Trip.com group.
During this period, search interest in Thailand and Singapore increased by 176% and 93%, respectively, according to the company.
Chinese officials have called the rules by South Korea and others “excessive” and “discriminatory.”
But South Korea denies the claims of discrimination. Seung-ho Choi, deputy director of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, told CNBC that the country’s rules apply to “Korean and non-Korean nationals coming from China. … There are no there is no discrimination for nationality to this extent.”
“The Covid situation in China continues to worsen,” he said. The number of people traveling from China to Korea who tested positive for Covid-19 increased 14 times from November to December, he said.
Japan’s prime minister’s office did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment. A representative from the Japanese Embassy in Singapore told CNBC that Japan is processing Chinese travel visa applications as usual.
Citing a discrepancy in infection reports from China, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters on December 27: “In order to avoid a sharp increase in the influx of new cases in the country, we are focusing our efforts on entry inspections and airports”. according to an article published by Nikkei Asia.
Both Japan and South Korea have taken conservative stances in the face of the Covid pandemic.
Japan, in particular, has been slow to bounce back to pre-pandemic life, with locals showing little enthusiasm when its own border fully reopened in October 2022.
“A political question”
Rein told ‘Squawk Box Asia’ that the rules aren’t just about tourism.
“It’s a political issue,” he said, adding that he expects Japanese stocks to be affected, citing two cosmetic names.
“I would be careful with Shiseido. I would be careful with Kose, because there are going to be boycotts,” he said. Shares of Kose were down on the Tokyo Stock Exchange on Tuesday, but Shiseido was higher.
Rein said the animosity towards South Korea and Japan would be short-lived.
“It will take about three months for the anger to dissipate,” he said. “There are going to be massive revenge trips out of Korea to Japan – if those two countries treat the Chinese right.”
New Zealander Darren Straker, who lives and works in Shanghai, said he too thought the policies were politically motivated, calling them a “sad last gasp”. [as] the geopolitical door of the Covid is closing.”