China reopens borders in time for Year of the Rabbit


China has reopened its borders for the first time in three years after doing an abrupt U-turn on its Covid zero policy.

The news is a boost for Australia’s visitor economy which saw Chinese arrivals drop more than 95 per cent during the pandemic from the 1.43 million visitors in 2019.

Chinese visitors accounted for one-third ($12.3 billion) of all tourist spending before the pandemic.

Any rebound will take time though, with flight capacity down to a bare minimum and Qantas yet to announce a return of any services to China.

The Australian Government has also followed India, Japan, the UK and US in requiring all travellers from China, including Hong Kong and Macau, to provide a negative Covid-19 test result prior to travel.

Edith Cowan University international tourism professor Sam Huang said the move was “very understandable”.

“[But] we need to see how difficult it is for people to get a test in China,” he told the ABC.

“If people cannot easily get a test, that may be really a big barrier for people to travel.”

Searches for visa application from Chinese eager to finally leave the country have rocketed while outbound flight bookings from mainland China also increased by more than 250 per cent within 24 hours of the Chinese government announcing the opening of the country’s borders with Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and Thailand making up the top five most-popular destinations.

Professor Huang said Australia should focus on rebuilding the infrastructure needed to welcome the return of large numbers of visitors from China.

“You need time to build a new industry with new people coming into the industry working as tour guides,” he said.

“That’s not easy.”