Long visa wait times are holding back a rebound in China’s international travel


Travelers walk at a terminal hall in Beijing Capital International Airport, China.
Tingshu Wang | Reuters

Long wait times for visa applications are keeping people in China from traveling internationally as much as they’d like to, Jane Sun, CEO of travel booking site Trip.com Group, told CNBC’s Eunice Yoon.

For example, applications for a Schengen visa take two to six months, Sun said, “which is too long.”

She claimed demand for international travel from China has “far exceeded” the 2019 level, before the pandemic. Demand for domestic travel has exceeded the 2019 level by 60%, she said.

Another challenge for outbound travel from China is the number of flights, Sun said, noting flight capacity to the U.S. is only at 6% of what it was before the pandemic.

As of August, the U.S. only allowed 12 round-trip passenger flights a week from China to the U.S. That was slated to increase to 18 a week starting Sept. 1, and 24 a week starting Oct. 29.

Other regions have seen flights to and from China restored more quickly.

Flights to the Asia-Pacific region have recovered by more than 50%, while flight capacity to the Middle East has doubled from pre-pandemic levels, Sun said.

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