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Photo: Golli. Tourists in front of Esja on Sæbraut in Reykjavík.

Chinese Tourists to Return After Resumption of Group Tours

The Chinese government has decided to allow the sale of cross-border group tours to an additional 40 countries, including Iceland, beginning on March 15. The move forms a part of the easing of travel restrictions in China following a pandemic-induced travel ban, RÚV reports.

List of countries unpublished as of yet

China’s outbound travel saw a rapid rebound after the country eased restrictions on cross-border group tours on February 6; the sale of flights to and from China had been largely suspended since 2020.

RÚV reported yesterday that the Chinese government had decided to lift restrictions on forty other countries, including Iceland, beginning on March 15. This means that tourist groups from China will once again be a common sight in Iceland.

He Rulong, China’s ambassador to Iceland, told RÚV that Chinese society had returned to normal after the pandemic and was experiencing strong economic growth – adding that it was aiming to further increase economic growth in the near future: “We plan to increase the number of jobs by 12 million. So it is a priority for us to accommodate consumption demands among Chinese consumers.”

The second list of countries to which package tours will be allowed to be sold has yet to be published, RÚV notes, so it is not clear which other countries will benefit from the increased freedom of movement of Chinese citizens.

Slower comparative growth of Chinese tourists

Chinese travellers composed the fourth largest group of tourists in Iceland in 2019. They have, however, been nearly invisible since then. Despite the number of tourists from other countries increasing again last year, the number of Chinese tourists was relatively scant (see below figures):

2019: 114,000
2020: 19,700
2021: 6,500
2022: 23,70

In January, many European countries imposed restrictions on Chinese tourists at the recommendation of the European Council. There was no reason to take such measures here in Iceland. He Rulong says this fact influenced the Chinese government’s decision.

“I believe that is the reason why China chose Iceland to be among these 40 countries.”

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