Chinese are angry with South Korea and Japan

Travel restrictions introduced as part of the reopening of the Chinese border could be Impact on where people book travel.

But it’s not out of defiance, said several Chinese travelers who spoke to CNBC.

It’s because some countries won’t let them in, they said.

“I think it’s unfair”

The reactions of Chinese travelers who spoke to CNBC varied, ranging from indifference to confusion to anger.

“Of course I think that’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 from China. Last week, the European Union recommended that its members require Chinese travelers to have Covid tests before entering the country.

New Covid rules are prompting some Chinese travelers to make up their minds on their Plan B destinations

But Covid testing isn’t the problem, said Shaun Rein, chief executive of the China Market Research Group. said Squawk Box Asia on Monday. “This policy only targets mainland Chinese,” he said.

China-based South African Mansoor Mohamed agreed. “It’s relatively easy and cheap to get a Covid test in China, so it won’t affect my travel planning,” he said.

However, I know that many patriotic Chinese colleagues and friends will avoid these countries for now because the practice of only testing passengers arriving from China is discriminatory,” he said.

Of course, China requires travelers to test negative before entering China, and has done so for the past three years.

The difference, Mohamed said, is that “every arrival [to China]including Chinese nationals… [is] subject to the same rules.”

Where the Chinese are going

Gao Dan told CNBC that she plans to travel from Qinghai Province for the first time in more than two years. But she said she’s staying in China, adding that she “hasn’t looked into other countries’ travel policies,” according to a CNBC translation.

Others book trips abroad, but some not to their preferred destinations – namely Japan and South Korea.

A traveler named Bonnie told CNBC her friends in China would travel to Thailand rather than South Korea, although “they hadn’t considered Thailand before.”

Tuul & Bruno Morandi | The image database | Getty Images

“When China said it would open its borders in January, all my friends said they were going to Japan and Korea,” Bonnie said.

But they couldn’t get visas, she said. “So they’re going to Thailand now.”

Rein said Chinese travelers are now going to Singapore and Thailand because “both countries welcome us.”

Of the top destinations Chinese nationals searched for after the border reopening announcement, these are the only two that haven’t imposed new restrictions on incoming Chinese travelers.

Data shows that search interest for outbound flights from mainland China increased by 83% in the 11 days after the announcement, compared to the 14 days before, according to Trip.com Group data.

During that period, search interest for Thailand and Singapore increased by 176% and 93%, respectively, according to the company.

Angry that some more than others

Market research firm says restrictions on Chinese travelers will 'hit' Japanese stocks.

The Office of the Prime Minister of Japan did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment. A representative from the Japanese embassy in Singapore told CNBC that Japan is processing Chinese travel visa applications as usual.

Citing a discrepancy in infection information from China, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Jan. 27: “To avoid a sharp surge in the influx of new cases into the country, we are focusing our efforts on immigration controls and airports,” one said Article published by Nikkei Asia.

Both Japan and South Korea have taken conservative positions on the Covid pandemic.

Japan, in particular, has been slow to recover to pre-pandemic life, and residents showed little enthusiasm when its border fully reopened in October 2022.

“A Political Issue”

Rein told Squawk Box Asia that the rules aren’t just about tourism.

“This is a political issue,” he said, adding that he expects Japanese stocks to be hit, highlighting two cosmetics names.

Read more about China’s reopening

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