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    To Boost Bilateral Tourism, China and Singapore Ease Visa Rules

    The move is part of China’s strategic efforts to enhance the travel sector through measures including additional visa exemptions, streamlined applications, and reduced visa fees.

    Days after China implemented a visa-free travel policy for six countries, China and Singapore have announced a 30-day visa exemption agreement for their residents. Officials from both countries are currently finalizing operational details, with the goal of implementing the visa exemption agreement in early 2024.

    The move is part of a series of strategic changes by Chinese authorities aimed at boosting the travel and tourism sector through measures including more visa exemptions, streamlined application processes, and reduced fees for visa applications.

    Announcing the move Thursday in Tianjin, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong highlighted that the personnel exchanges between both sides are increasing and mutual flights are getting close to the pre-pandemic level. 

    “The 30-day visa-free arrangement between the two countries will support progress, facilitate more personnel exchanges, and solidify the cornerstone of our bilateral relationship,” Wong was quoted as saying in the meeting, according to Singaporean newspaper Lianhe Zaobao.

    Following the announcement, travel operator Group told Sixth Tone that searches for China-Singapore flight tickets and related hotel bookings surged by 90% and 50%, respectively, while Tongcheng Travel, an online travel agency, reported an 18% uptick in online traffic for Singapore tourism on its platform, with the most interest from users in Guangdong province, Shanghai, Jiangsu province, and Shandong province. 

    Echoing a similar sentiment, a member of staff from the visa department at tourism services provider Jinjiang Travel said: “For domestic travelers, Singapore has always been a popular destination during winter, particularly around Spring Festival. Though the specific details of the visa-free measures are still pending, the announcement has already generated increased interest.”

    In July, China restored a 15-day visa-free policy for Singaporean passport holders, which had been paused for over three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Singapore, a favored destination among Chinese travelers, saw about 1 million visits from China in the first nine months of this year, just 35% of the 2019 figure, according to Group. 

    This new visa-free arrangement also comes in the wake of similar 30-day exemptions introduced by Thailand and Malaysia for Chinese residents in late September and early December, respectively. 

    Xiao Peng, a researcher at Qunar Big Data Research Institute, told Sixth Tone that while tourism in Malaysia has been slow to recover despite its visa waiver, the exemption for Singapore might spur travel plans, particularly during Spring Festival. According to Xiao, it offers travelers the opportunity of visiting two destinations in one trip, making the combined journey to both countries a more attractive option. 

    In an effort to boost both inbound and outbound travel, Chinese authorities have introduced a slew of measures. On Friday, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced a 25% reduction in Chinese visa fees for travelers from several countries, effective from next Monday. 

    And in July, major domestic payment platforms Alipay and WeChat Pay began enabling overseas tourists to directly link their accounts with credit or debit cards issued by international operators, including Visa. 

    Last month, China also unveiled a unilateral visa-free policy for passport holders from six countries, including France, Germany, and Malaysia, which took effect Dec. 1. MFA spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Tuesday that nearly 18,000 individuals from these countries entered China between Dec. 1 and Dec. 3, marking a 39% increase in daily arrivals compared to Nov. 30. 

    Editor: Apurva.  

    (Header image: IC)