BEIJING - Visa applications by Chinese citizens remain well below pre-pandemic levels following the lifting of travel restrictions in January, data from a specialist visa firm revealed, as the number of international flights remained limited.
VFS Global, a visa application outsourcing and technology services firm, said in a statement visa application volumes from China reached 35% of pre-COVID levels by May compared with the same period of 2019 (January to May 20).
It listed top destinations as including Canada, Germany, Italy, Britain and the United States.
China's government gave the green light for international travel and resumed issuing passports and travel visas for residents in January. But analysts had said travel would not quickly bounce back due to several reasons, including the low number of flights into and out of the country.
Although the country saw a spurt of domestic travel demand during the Lunar New Year and Labour Day holidays, analysts at Nomura said in a note that the recovery in outbound tourism has remained gradual.
Also, there remains a possibility of new outbreaks that could deter travel.
When the country first opened its borders, several countries barred Chinese citizens over fears of spreading COVID and alleged new variants amid a surge in the country, which the government declared victory over.
"The new wave could send the infections number to the highest level since China's official reopening this January," said analysts at Citi.
"The simulated infection peak also coincides well with the Dragon Boat Festival (June 22-24) and the beginning of the summer travel season. The travel data for the upcoming holidays will be an important watch point in this sense," Citi analysts wrote in a research note.
Despite cases rising in cities like Beijing, where the city's municipal health commission recently reported four straight weeks of increasing infections, many health experts in the country have downplayed any new major resurgence.
(Reporting by Bernard Orr; Editing by David Holmes)