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Chinese are indignant at South Korea and Japan

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Travel restrictions launched within the wake of China’s border reopening could also be affecting where people there are booking trips.

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

It’s because some countries aren’t letting them in easily, they said.

‘I believe it’s unfair’

Reactions from Chinese travelers who spoke to CNBC were varied, starting from indifference to confusion to anger.

“In fact, I believe it’s unfair,” said one citizen, who asked to be called Bonnie. “But at the identical time, we understand what is going on on.”

Up to now, greater than a dozen countries have announced latest rules for travelers departing from China. Last week, the European Union really helpful that its members require Chinese travelers to take Covid tests before entering.

But Covid tests aren’t the issue, Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group, told “Squawk Box Asia” on Monday. It’s that “these policies are directed only towards mainland Chinese,” he said.

South African Mansoor Mohamed, who lives in China, agreed. “It is comparatively easy and low cost to do a Covid test in China, so it would not affect my travel planning,” he said.

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

In fact, China requires travelers to check negative before entering China, and has for 3 years.

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

Where the Chinese are going

Gao Dan told CNBC she is planning to travel out of the province of Qinghai for the primary time in greater than two years. But she said she’s staying in China, adding that she “hasn’t looked into what other countries’ travel policies are,” in line with a CNBC translation.

Others are booking trips abroad, but some to not their first-choice destinations — namely Japan and South Korea.

One traveler, named Bonnie, told CNBC her friends in China are going to Thailand relatively than South Korea, regardless that “they would not have considered Thailand” before.

Tuul & Bruno Morandi | The Image Bank | Getty Images

“When China said they were opening the borders in January, all my friends said they are going to Japan and Korea,” said Bonnie.

But they couldn’t get visas, she said. “So that they are actually going to Thailand.”   

Rein said Chinese travelers are actually headed to Singapore and Thailand because “each countries are welcoming us.”

Of the highest destinations Chinese nationals searched after the border reopening announcement, those are the one two that have not imposed latest restrictions on incoming Chinese travelers.

Data shows search interest for outbound flights from mainland China rose by 83% within the 11 days after the announcement, compared with the 14 days before it, in line with data from Trip.com Group.

During this era, search interest for Thailand and Singapore grew by 176% and 93%, respectively, in line with the corporate.

Angrier at some greater than others

Curbs on Chinese travelers will 'hit' Japanese stocks, says market research firm

Chinese officials called the foundations from South Korea and others “excessive” and “discriminatory.”

But South Korea refutes claims of discrimination. Seung-ho Choi, a deputy director on the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, identified to CNBC that the country’s rules apply to “Korean nationals and non-Korean nationals coming from China. … There isn’t any discrimination for nationality on this measure.”

“China’s Covid situation continues to be worsening,” he said. The number of individuals traveling from China to Korea who tested positive for Covid-19 went up 14 times from November to December, he said.

The Prime Minister’s Office of Japan didn’t reply to CNBC’s request for comment. A representative at Japan’s Embassy in Singapore told CNBC that Japan is processing Chinese travel visa requests as usual.

Citing a discrepancy in infection information from China, Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters on Dec. 27: “With a purpose to avoid a pointy increase within the influx of latest cases into the country, we’re focusing efforts on entry inspections and airports,” in line with an article published by Nikkei Asia.

Each Japan and South Korea have taken conservative stances toward the Covid pandemic.

Japan, particularly, has been sluggish to bounce back to pre-pandemic life, with residents showing little enthusiasm when its own border fully reopened in October 2022.  

‘A political issue’

Rein told “Squawk Box Asia” that the foundations should not nearly tourism.

“This can be a political issue,” he said, adding that he expects Japanese stocks to be affected, singling out two cosmetics names.

Read more about China’s reopening

“I could be cautious on Shiseido. I’d be cautious on Kose, because there are going to be some boycotts,” he said. Shares of Kose were lower on the Tokyo stock exchange on Tuesday, but Shiseido was higher.

Rein said animosity toward South Korea and Japan might be short-lived.

“It’ll take about three months for the anger to dissipate,” he said. “There’s going to be massive revenge travel outside to Korea to Japan — if those two countries treat Chinese properly.”

Latest Zealander Darren Straker, who lives and works in Shanghai, said he, too, believes the policies are politically motivated, calling them a “last sad gasp [as] the Covid geopolitical door closes.”

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