Some 130 million overseas journeys were made by Chinese nationals last year, a number just shy of 10 percent of the total Chinese population. However, international trips are made by an even smaller proportion of the population, with some 8.7 percent (or 120 million) Chinese people actually holding passports. That’s a fairly tiny portion of the very large Chinese population, and the Chinese government now hopes to boost international travel even further with the help of simplified passport application procedures.
According to a Xinhua report on Monday, Chinese nationals will no longer need to make multiple trips to the relevant government offices when applying for passports and other travel documents. Instead, starting May 1, a large part of the application procedure will be online-based, and applicants will only need to make one trip to the State Immigration Administration to complete the application.
The State Immigration Administration also pledges to make things easier for passport applications residing in a place different from their registered permanent residency, effectively reducing the application time for such applicants by 10 days.
To emphasize how much it cares about making international travel more manageable, the State Immigration Administration also said that it will “offer speedy service to those who urgently need travel documents,” and that it will add extra capacity before “busy holidays and travel seasons.”
From the sounds of it all, the State Immigration Administration is making its best efforts to make international travel more readily available for the remaining over one billion Chinese people who have yet to apply for a passport. Officially, the policy “is aimed at meeting the increasing demand for international travel among Chinese people.”
This is undoubtedly vital for China to maintain the strong growth of its tourism market, particularly now when Chinese tourism growth has slowed down to the single digits. At the World Economic Forum in Davos in January this year, Ctrip CEO Jane Sun predicted the number of Chinese passport holders would grow to 240 million by 2020. While certainly a bold prediction (and one that would double the Chinese tourism market in two years), today’s announced policy changes are indeed an important step in that direction.
Meanwhile, destinations around the world are easing the visa requirements for Chinese passport holders with the hopes of further spurring Chinese visits and tourist spending. In the latest Passport Index, the Chinese passport ranked 67th with visa-free and visa-on-arrival policies available in 66 destinations.
And while things could certainly get a bit easier still, the Chinese passport has never been stronger and more destinations have never been available directly from Chinese airports. Add easier passport application procedures to that, and you have a potent mix for future Chinese tourism growth.