Chinese visas difficult during northern neighbor's biggest holiday

By Tu Nguyen   October 3, 2023 | 06:19 am PT
A number of Vietnamese travel companies have been unable obtain group tour visas to China during its largest holiday when National Day and the Mid-Autumn festival coincide.

Xuan Minh, director of a travel company specializing in outbound tourism, said his company had a group of 30 Vietnamese tourists whose group visas were rejected by China this week.

The group had planned to depart from Hanoi on October 13 to visit Shanghai, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Wu Chan and Beijing.

But on Monday, Minh was surprised to receive the news that the group travel visa applications had been rejected.

Some Vietnamese travel companies were calling this September 29 to October 6 the "Golden Week" to visit China because the annual mid-autumn festival is coinciding with the northern neighbor’s National Day (Oct. 1) celebrations, resulting in an eight-day holiday.

But it appears that so many Chinese are traveling during their first National Day holiday since the country lifted all Covid restrictions that foreign tourist groups are being rejected.

"We lost deposits to the airline and expenses to apply for group visas, as well as our advertising costs," Minh said. He added that the visa applications were likely rejected because they were submitted too close to the holiday.

Passengers arrive at Beijing railway station on the first day of the golden week holiday on Friday, September 29, 2023. Photo by AFP

Passengers arrive at Beijing railway station on the first day of the "golden week" holiday on Friday, September 29, 2023. Photo by AFP

Having offered tours to China since 2016, Minh knew that the Golden Week is always a "sensitive" time to apply for a Chinese tour group visa. However, he said the company still sells tours because its Chinese partner said that visas for tourist groups would be issued without disruption.

Thanh Tung, communications director of a travel company based in Hanoi, said a group of Vietnamese tourists booking a tour of China through his company also failed to get group visas.

But although the group visa was rejected, his company switched to applying for single visas. The move was successful and the group traveled on schedule.

However, each tourist had to pay an additional fee to apply again. Normally, the price for a group visa costs US$30-60 per person, but a single visa goes for $120-125 per person.

Nguyen Tien Dat, general director of Hanoi-based AZA Travel, said that International Labor Day, Chinese National Day and the Lunar New Year are the most important holidays in China. He thus advised that Vietnamese travel companies should avoid organizing tours to China on these occasions because group visas are often rejected.

The China Civil Aviation Administration has estimated that more than 21 million Chinese passengers will travel by air during the holiday. A total of 137,000 flights are expected to take off, with an average of over 17,000 flights per day.

"This might be the hottest National Day 'golden week' holiday ever," said Dai Bin, president of China Tourism Academy. The institution predicted that over 100 million passenger trips are expected to be made across the country each day on average during the period.

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