Chinese Tourists to Return After Resumption of Group Tours

túristi tourist ferðamaður tourism

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List of countries unpublished as of yet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.”

Possible Restrictions for Travelers from China

keflavik airport COVID-19 testing

Epidemiologist Guðrún Aspelund says that border screenings are being considered for travelers from China, given the recent rise in infections there.

In a recent statement, Guðrún indicated that healthcare systems throughout Europe are under stress, and that possible measures at the Icelandic border may be taken to relieve pressure other nations as well.

Regulations on travel are set to be lifted soon in China, meaning that Chinese residents will no longer have to quarantine upon arrival in China from foreign travel. This relaxation has healthcare experts throughout Europe concerned that a wave of Chinese travelers may take advantage of the relaxed regulations. The recent easing of restrictions has contributed to the uptick in infections, and some Western nations have also expressed concerns that authorities there have systematically under-reported figures.

Guðrún further stated: “We have less information coming from there regarding numbers for infections, hospitalizations, and cases. There is concern that the situation in China is quite bad and that it could affect Europe. There are also concerns of new varieties coming from China, though it is entirely possible that they may have other origins as well.”

Other nations, including the US, India, and the UK have also introduced mandatory testing for Chinese travelers. Chinese authorities have criticized these travel restrictions as being politically motivated.

A final decision on the possible restrictions is expected by the weekend.






Two Bodies Discovered on Sólheimasandur

Plane Wreck

The bodies of two Chinese tourists were discovered on Sólheimasandur in South Iceland yesterday, Vísir reports. One hundred fifty metres separated the bodies, which were found not far from the DC plane wreck.

150 metres apart

Police authorities in South Iceland received a report of the body of a young woman on Sólheimasandur, near the path to the DC plane wreck, at just past noon yesterday. At 2 pm, the body of a young man was discovered roughly 150 metres from the first body. The cause of their deaths remains unknown; the police are awaiting autopsy results.

Police believe that the pair were travelling together and that they may have died from exposure. A rental car was found at the Sólheimasandur parking lot. The vehicle had passed through Hvolsvöllur at just past 3 pm on Monday, January 13. The car’s windows were broken. Weather conditions on Monday were extreme.

An unusual discovery

In an interview with Vísir, Oddur Árnason, chief constable of the South Iceland Police, stated that the discovery was unusual; the pair was in their twenties, and their bodies were found 150 metres apart.

“It’s unusual to find two bodies in open country,” the constable stated.

According to Oddur, the police arrived on the scene immediately after being notified. It is believed that the pair died from exposure.

“We know that they passed traffic cameras on Hvolsvellir on Monday at around 3 pm and that on Monday and Tuesday the weather was egregious, which offers some clues. We don’t want to make assumptions, however.”

The Chinese Embassy has been notified of the discovery.

This article was updated at 11:08 am.