Neuschwanstein and Munich were popular destinations for Chinese tour groups. After the Corona break, tourists are expected to return from the People’s Republic internationally. Except: Germany.
As a latecomer in Europe, the federal government is examining the lifting of one of the last corona-related restrictions introduced: the entry ban for Chinese tourists. “We are currently discussing a complete lifting of these last remaining entry and visa restrictions for tourism purposes,” says the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin. On March 1, the federal government had already largely lifted the corona-related restrictions on entry from China. In addition, since April 7th, the last corona regulations based on the Infection Protection Act in Germany have also been abolished. But the entry ban for tourists from China remains in place.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) flies to China on Tuesday. Tourism could be an issue, although certainly not the most important given the growing differences. Before the pandemic, the Chinese in tourist hotspots from Bali to Hawaii to Neuschwanstein and Venice were an important economic factor because they spent an extraordinary amount of money: in 2019, the US bank Citi estimated that it was $200 billion around the world.
Accordingly, in the discussions of some Chinese visitors, Europe seemed less a continent of historical sights than a gigantic shopping center for “mingpai”. In addition to Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Gucci, the Chinese word for “famous brands” also includes products from the German-speaking world: Swiss Rolex watches and Austrian crystal glass from Swarovski are just as much a part as Adidas shoes, WMF pans and Zwilling cutlery.
In this respect, hoteliers, restaurateurs and shopkeepers in the travel destinations popular with Chinese people are longingly hoping for their return after a three-year Corona break.
Switzerland and Austria were faster than Germany in this respect: According to the Foreign Ministry in Vienna, the Austrian representations in China accept all visa applications, including those from tourists.
Switzerland was much more liberal with the corona restrictions anyway. There have been no pandemic-related entry restrictions there since the beginning of May 2022. And even before that, tourists from corona risk countries were allowed to enter the country if they presented proof of vaccination, as a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs in Bern explained.
Accordingly, there is currently advertising for trips to Europe again in China. Switzerland and Austria are on offer, as are France and Italy and Great Britain, but also the Norwegian fjords and Iceland.
But Germany is largely missing from the destinations offered, as can be read on the websites of the branches of the large tour operator CITS in Shanghai and Beijing. CITS is currently actively promoting a country that did not play a major role in Chinese travel dreams in the past, but which is one of China’s friends in Beijing propaganda: Russia.
The German-Chinese entry ban was mutual, and China did not issue tourist visas for visitors from Germany for a long time. According to information on the website of the Chinese Embassy in Berlin, Beijing has now lifted this.
In 2019, the Federal Statistical Office counted 1.5 million visitors from China in Germany, in 2022 there were just under 180,000. Even if Chinese tourists could enter Germany unhindered again, a return to old figures is not to be expected this year.
Air traffic between the two countries was temporarily largely suspended, and this year there will be significantly fewer connections than before the pandemic. In the summer of 2019, for example, there were 66 flights a week to China at Frankfurt Airport; according to the operator Fraport, there are currently around 32. By the end of the summer flight schedule, there could be around 45 departures again, which would still be significantly fewer than before the pandemic .
The situation is similar at the second largest German airport in Munich: “In the summer of 2019, Lufthansa had a daily connection from Munich to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong,” says a spokeswoman. “In addition, Air China flew daily from Munich to Beijing and three times a week to Shanghai.” Since April 1, Lufthansa has been flying from the Bavarian capital to Shanghai three times a week, but the route to Beijing is not scheduled to resume until July.
Europe’s largest hotel group is the French Accor group, which expects more overseas guests to return this year. “Compared to the first quarter of 2022, bookings from guests from overseas have recovered extremely, but are not yet at the pre-crisis level,” says a spokeswoman for the German Accor company in Munich.
However, this only applies to a limited extent for wealthy Chinese tourists: “Various factors such as the relatively late reopening of the Chinese border, visa regulations or changed flight capacities naturally affect travelers from overseas.” (dpa)