(Beijing) China on Thursday lifted a ban in place since the health crisis on group travel to more than 70 countries, including the United States, raising hopes for the return in numbers of Chinese tourists abroad.

This measure already concerned France since March and Switzerland since January, thanks to previous lifting of restrictions for organized trips.

The decision has since “played a positive role for the promotion of tourism exchanges and cooperation”, welcomed the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism, with the publication of this new list of countries which includes Japan, China. South Korea, India, the United Kingdom or even Turkey and Belgium.

Canada, which has a difficult relationship with China, is not included.

China closed its borders in 2020 to protect itself from COVID-19, then imposed long and costly quarantines on arrival to deter returns to the country.

The Chinese were banned for three years from traveling abroad unless there were compelling reasons.

But this ban was completely lifted at the beginning of the year and Chinese tourists who travel individually can since go where they want.

“International connections (with China) continue to resume and Chinese people are more and more inclined to travel abroad,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Thursday, as the country has long remained virtually isolated from the rest. of the world due to lack of flights during the pandemic and draconian restrictions.

Before the pandemic, China was the first country in the world in terms of tourists sent abroad, with some 155 million departures recorded in 2019, according to the consulting firm McKinsey.

China resumed issuing tourist visas to foreigners in March. But arrivals to the country are only a fraction of pre-pandemic levels.