Travel restrictions launched in the wake of China’s border reopening may beaffecting where people there are booking trips. But it’s not out of spite, said several Chinese travelers who spoke to CNBC. It’s because some countries aren’t letting them in, they said.
But Covid tests aren’t the problem, Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group, told “Squawk Box Asia” on Monday. It’s that “these policies are directed only towards mainland Chinese,” he said. South African Mansoor Mohamed, who lives in China, agreed. “It is relatively easy and cheap to do a Covid test in China, so it will not affect my travel planning,” he said.
“However, I know that many patriotic Chinese colleagues and friends will avoid those countries for now because the practice of only testing passengers arriving from China is discriminatory,” he said.
“Of course, I think it’s unfair,” said one citizen, who asked to be called Bonnie. “But at the same time, we understand what’s going on.” So far, more than a dozen countries have announced new rules for travelers departing from China. Last week, the European Union recommended that its members require Chinese travelers to take Covid tests before entering.
Of course, China requires travelers to test negative before entering China, and has for three years. The difference, Mohamed said, is that “every arrival [to China], including Chinese nationals … [is] subjected to the same rules.”
Others are booking trips abroad, but some not to their first-choice destinations namely Japan and South Korea. One traveler, named Bonnie, told CNBC her friends in China are going to Thailand rather than South Korea, even though “they wouldn’t have considered Thailand” before.
Rein said Chinese travelers are now headed to Singapore and Thailand because “both countries are welcoming us.” Of the top destinations Chinese nationals searched after the border reopening announcement, those are the only two that haven’t imposed new restrictions on incoming Chinese travelers.
Gao Dan told CNBC she is planning to travel out of the province of Qinghai for the first time in more than two years. But she said she’s staying in China, adding that she “hasn’t looked into what other countries’ travel policies are,” according to a CNBC translation.
Data shows search interest for outbound flights from mainland China rose by 83% in the 11 days after the announcement, compared with the 14 days before it, according to data from Trip.com Group. During this period, search interest for Thailand and Singapore grew by 176% and 93%, respectively, according to the company.
“I would be cautious on Shiseido. I’d be cautious on Kose, because there are going to be some boycotts,” he said. Shares of Kose were lower on the Tokyo stock exchange on Tuesday, but Shiseido was higher. Rein told “Squawk Box Asia” that the rules are not just about tourism.“This is a political issue,” he said, adding that he expects Japanese stocks to be affected, singling out two cosmetics names.