China’s easing of COVID restrictions sparks surge in travel requests and caution

Travelers walk inside a terminal hall of Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, China March 23, 2022. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

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BEIJING, June 29 (Reuters) – Online searches for Chinese airline tickets on domestic and international routes surged on Wednesday after Beijing announced cuts to COVID-19 quarantine requirements and changes to a state-mandated mobile app for local to make trips.

The unexpected moves mark a significant easing of the rigid curbs that have severely restricted travel and battered China’s economy, though strict measures remain in place, including a shortage of international flights, and many social media users have warned about it.

The industry ministry said Wednesday that a Chinese mobile app that shows whether a person has traveled to a Chinese city with COVID-hit areas will no longer star-mark that story, one of the many means China has to help to track the virus and contain possible spread.

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The asterisk helped local authorities impose restrictions like quarantines and COVID testing, sparking widespread complaints.

“It looks like a small step, but it’s quite a big step,” one user wrote on the Twitter-like Weibo, where the announcement quickly became a hot topic with more than 200 million views.

It came a day after Beijing eased quarantine rules and Shanghai resumed eating in restaurants after a two-month lockdown that brought China’s biggest city to a standstill and enraged residents. Continue reading

The two directives triggered a surge in travel requests.

The Qunar platform reports that searches for airline tickets rose 60% and doubled for hotels in the 30 minutes following Wednesday’s announcement.

Rival Ly.com reported a similar surge, noting a spike in interest in tickets to China from places including Japan, Singapore and South Korea.

WAIT-AND-SEE APPROACH

China’s zero-COVID policy has almost completely wiped out international business and leisure travel, while domestic travel has also been hit hard by China’s response to outbreaks of the highly infectious Omicron variant in April and May, which led to drastic lockdowns in several cities. Continue reading

This week’s lockdown follows a recent dramatic drop in locally transmitted infections.

“It’s too early to tell how much this will inspire people to travel, as they will likely still have to contend with fairly stringent testing requirements wherever they travel domestically,” said Ben Cavender, managing director of the China Market Research Group.

As the rest of the world tries to live with the virus, China has vowed to stand by its hard curbs, with President Xi Jinping reiterating that the strategy is “right and effective” and should be firmly adhered to. Continue reading

Many would-be travelers said on social media and in chat rooms that they would wait before trying to book tickets, citing a lack of flights and government restrictions on new passports for Chinese going abroad for reasons not considered want. significant.

Most flights to China are limited to occupying 75% of their seats. The country also has a “circuit breaker” scheme that requires airlines to suspend flights if they have a certain number of COVID-positive passengers.

As of Tuesday, the number of international flights, including to Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan, for this year was about 4% of pre-COVID levels, according to consultancy Variflight.

The ticket prices are well above the normal price. For example, one-way tickets from Singapore to China’s business hub Shanghai range from 50,000 to 70,000 yuan ($7,460 to $10,590) on China Eastern Airlines between July and September.

‚ÄúThere are very few flights, airline ticket prices are sky high. In fact, it is not possible to arrange international group tours,” said Zhou Weihong, deputy general manager of Shanghai-based travel agency Spring Tour.

($1=6.7016 Chinese Renminbi Yuan)

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Reporting by Sophie Yu, Brenda Goh, Roxanne Liu, Albee Zhang, Stella Qiu, and Martin Quin Pollard; Edited by Clarence Fernandez, Tony Munroe and John Stonestreet

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.