China Fully Allows Visa-Free Entry for Foreign Tourist Groups on Cruise Ships

Posted by Written by Qian Zhou Reading Time: 2 minutes

China’s immigration agency announced that it will grant a visa-free policy for foreign tourist groups to enter China by cruise at all cruise ports along the coast of China, starting May 15, 2024. The tourist group must remain with the same cruise ship until its next port of call and stay within permitted areas for no more than 15 days.

Effective May 15, 2024, the National Immigration Administration (NIA) has officially implemented a visa-free policy for foreign tourist groups entering China via cruise ships. This progressive move aims to enhance personnel exchanges and foster cooperation between China and other nations, furthering the country’s commitment to high-level openness.

Under this policy, foreign tourist groups, comprising two or more individuals, who travel by cruise ship and are organized by Chinese domestic travel agencies, can now enjoy visa-free entry as a cohesive group at cruise ports in 13 cities along the Chinese coast.

These cities include:

  1. Tianjin
  2. Dalian (Liaoning)
  3. Shanghai
  4. Lianyungang (Jiangsu)
  5. Wenzhou (Zhejiang)
  6. Zhoushan (Zhejiang)
  7. Xiamen (Fujian)
  8. Qingdao (Shandong)
  9. Guangzhou(Guangdong)
  10. Shenzhen (Guangdong)
  11. Beihai (Guangxi)
  12. Haikou (Hainan)
  13. Sanya (Hainan)

The tourist group must remain with the same cruise ship until its next port of call and stay within China for no more than 15 days. The eligible areas for this policy are coastal provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities) and Beijing.

Furthermore, to support cruise tourism development, seven additional cruise ports—Dalian, Lianyungang, Wenzhou, Zhoushan, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Beihai—have been included as applicable ports for visa-free transit.

Potential impact of the visa-free policy for foreign tourist groups entering China via cruise ships

The recent implementation of the visa-free policy for foreign tourist groups entering China via cruise ships is poised to have several significant effects. The policy will provide crucial support for the cruise economy and the overall cruise industry. By facilitating smoother travel for foreign tourist groups, it acts as a catalyst for high-quality development in this sector.

Additionally, under this policy, international cruise companies can strategically plan their global routes by designating Chinese port cities, such as ShanghaiXiamen, and Shenzhen, as docking destinations. This move is expected to attract more cruise ships to Chinese ports, ultimately bringing in a larger number of international visitors to the Chinese market.

Furthermore, this policy also encourages more foreign tourists to visit China for sightseeing.

In the first quarter of 2024, inbound tourism showed strong signs of recovery. According to data from the NIA, the number of foreign visitors to China in the first quarter had grown more than threefold compared to the same period in 2023.

Looking ahead to the second quarter, with continued favorable measures, such as streamlined entry payments and reciprocal visa exemptions, inbound tourism orders during the Labor Day holiday increased by over 100 percent on certain travel platforms in cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Chongqing. This trend is expected to persist in the coming months.

For more information about China’s visa-free policy and travel updates, please read our China Briefing articles here and here.

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