last week COTRI moved to new premises in Hamburg. Looking through a lot of old materials, deciding to keep or throw away, many memories came up again. COTRI was founded in 2004, when Chinese outbound tourism was still a Fata Morgana on the horizon, at least from a European point of view.
The challenge in these years was to convince destinations and service providers that it was time to prepare for a completely new set of travellers with new demands and expectations.
Sounds familiar? Indeed, we are facing now an eerily similar situation: After 2 ½ years, it seems like the gates, which were pushed open once by public demand in the early years of the new millennium, are starting to react again to the pressure again, this time from a much larger group of Chinese affluent enough to travel internationally than 20 or so years ago.
At least there are several good news, both in the form of real things happening as well as in the form of new messages from the spin doctors, working overtime in China to move slowly but surely towards the re-opening of China.
Among the facts, we can count the reduction of Quarantine time, which has been halved from 21 to 10 days, the streamlining of visa procedures, the abolition of necessary antigen tests within 12 hours before boarding and not the least the substantial increase of the number of international flights to and from China.
The spin doctors had a field day last week with an article in the government mouthpiece Global Times. The Chinese tourism industry was characterised as “yearning for a possible comeback for overseas travel”, and it was reported that “Overseas travel” had become “a buzzword on Chinese social media in the last week”. This is a big step from the previous position that it is dangerous outside of China and therefore nobody wants to travel outbound anyway.
The leader of a think-tank delegation, which was allowed to travel to the USA is quoted in the same article as saying: “We came up with various ways to maintain communication during the pandemic… But they pale in comparison to face-to-face exchanges.” The reason: “It’s more direct, and efficient.”
However, most impressive in the article is the part which provides a U-turn from the phobia and scaremongering of past months when people were advised to touch the wrapping paper of a foreign parcel only outdoors in protective gear which was to be burnt together with the packaging materials afterwards.
Now the article said “After the rules were adjusted, several Chinese cities witnessed a resurgence of COVID-19. .. Health experts believed that while occasional flare-ups are inevitable as long as coronavirus exists, it will not lead to a tightening of COVID-19 policies.
Precise COVID-19 control also needs to take into consideration the country’s need to maintain people-to-people exchanges and exchanges of commodities, said an anonymous expert from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, noting that as long as the current policies are fully implemented and infection chains were detected at an early stage, the risk of spillover is very slim.”
A very slim risk – something hard to find in almost all aspects of life at the moment.
It can only be hoped that this article reflects the beginning of a change of the story and the start of the reopening of the gates and not just a temporary sign of a short-lived victory of the economical thinkers over the ideologists within the CCP over the editorial board of the Global Times.
By the pricking of my thumbs, let’s, therefore, hope that we do not end up in Act IV Scene 1 of Macbeth!
As always, all best wishes from Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt and the whole COTRI WEEKLY team!