Young Pioneer Tours

International Tourism to China has dropped 70 percent

Despite a recent spike in domestic tourism, international tourism to China has dropped 70 percent since pre-covid levels. Why though has this happened, is China still worth visiting and how can I visit for a North Korea Tour?

This very much a multi faceted question, with many different causes for what’s happened. At its route though China is still well worth visiting, although it is very much not as easy as it used to be.

Why have tourist numbers dropped in China?

Of the many reasons why tourist numbers to China have dropped, probably Covid-19 and its repercussions are very much at the forefront of this. That is because when China had its brutal lockdown news of just how things were in the country obviously got out. Rightly or wrongly this has now made people scared to go to China for fear of perceived authoritarianism.

This has thus partly played into the current geopolitical issues with China often seen as the other side in what is quickly becoming Cold War 2.0.

During this period China also made it much harder for the expats that were there to stay in the country, which has seen a huge exodus of the people that were previously working as teachers and the like within the country. This has also been the case with students, with long term visas, even for genuine tourists being fairly difficult to come by.

Few foreigners on the streets of China

This now means that foreigners are an extremely rate sight within the country and this includes Beijing, as well as tourist meccas like Yangshuo.

Said expats famously tended to spend most of their money within China, such as through travel, with few of them trying to see money and take it abroad. This meant that expats engaged in a lot of internal Chinese travel, as well as having visitors come out to see them.

So, should you get asked the difference between an expat and an immigrant, this should help you explain. Immigrants tend to not be kicked out of a country over political whims.

International tourism to China and its difficulties

There are other very China specific difficulties that have put off foreign visitors from coming to the country. Some of them are not so new, while others are very post-Covid-19.

Firstly there is the language barrier, with few realizing that almost no one in China speaks English. Again quite ironically this is something liable to get worse as English schools have for all intents now been banned.

Secondly though is paying for things in China. Previously cash was still a thing, but now China is for all intents not just mostly cashless, but also severely lacking in ATM’s. Last month I got really stuck in Guangzhou because the Chinese even made UnionPay not accepted. Eventually I needed to take a taxi to an ATM and hope it worked.

Of course one now can use WeChat with a foreign card, BUT you need a WeChat account to do this (very difficult) and even then it quite often fails. This now almost makes independent travel to China close to impossible for those who have not yet already been and can hit the ground with their feet running.

China does not embrace nor accept foreign cards to any useful degree, at least away from high priced international brands, meaning the country is extremely far from budget friendly.

And this sadly expands to even taxis. Apparently Shanghai are trialing foreign cards, but as the country rested them for so long the cultural change that would be needed to reverse international tourism to China recovering from its terminal decline is almost impossible.

International Tourism to China with YPT

YPT are currently working on tours to Xinjiang, Tibet and of course for our North Korea Tours through Beijing and Dandong. When these happen we will create a protocol that will make international visitors to China face as little hassle as possible.

We are also working on our next article, which will be about how to travel to China in 2024, fit with all the advice that you would need to come here.

And of course our Pioneers are always up for a challenge, which international tourism to China has indeed become.

You can check out our North Korea Tours here.

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