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Chinese tourists in Frankfurt am Main: affluent clientele

Photo: Arne Dedert / dpa

In the past, tour groups from China were almost part of the cityscape in cities such as Heidelberg or Frankfurt am Main - but with the outbreak of the corona pandemic, the Chinese government banned group travel abroad. Now Beijing has lifted restrictions on group travel to Germany and other Western countries.

The approval is effective immediately, the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced. In addition to Germany, tourists from China can now also visit the USA and Great Britain as well as Japan, South Korea and Australia.

Before the pandemic, Chinese people were among the world's most spend-happy tourists. In 2019, they spent a total of $255 billion on overseas travel, of which an estimated 60 percent was for group travel. The lifting of travel restrictions could thus be a boon for the tourism industry of the destination countries.

Canada is missing from the list

The approval granted by China is the third easing step. Since January, groups have been allowed to travel to 20 countries, including Thailand, Russia, Cuba and Argentina. A second authorisation concerned 40 other countries, including Nepal, France, Portugal and Brazil. China has not explained why the approvals were staggered.

Analysts point out that the countries that have been taking longer to release have political or economic tensions with China. Canada, whose relationship with China is particularly tense, is still not allowed to be visited by Chinese groups.

It is difficult to estimate how much tourism in the affected countries will benefit from the new travel permits. So far, international flights to and from China have only reached 53 percent of the pre-Corona level of 2019. But China's largest travel agency, Trip.com, saw a surge in searches for destinations such as Australia and Japan following the announcement of its third country package.

Airport operator Fraport is looking forward to welcoming passengers with purchasing power

"Despite a cooling overall economy, 40 percent of Chinese say they will spend more money on travel," says Steve Saxon of McKinsey. "People want to spend the money they saved during the coronavirus pandemic on international travel."

One beneficiary of high-spending tourists from China before the corona crisis was Frankfurt Airport, where travelers can stock up in shops before departure. Fraport's chief financial officer, Matthias Zieschang, recently said that the airport operator expects a growing number of affluent passengers from China.