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Long visa wait times slow China’s international travel recovery

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Travelers walk through a terminal hall at Beijing International Airport, China.

Tingshu Wang | Reuters

Long wait times for visa applications are preventing Chinese people from traveling abroad as much as they would like, Jane Sun, CEO of the travel booking site. Trip.com Grouptold CNBC’s Eunice Yoon.

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

She said demand for international travel from China had “significantly exceeded” the level of 2019, before the pandemic. Domestic travel demand has exceeded 2019 levels by 60%, she said.

Another challenge for outbound travel from China is the number of flights, Sun said, noting that flight capacity to the United States is only 6 percent of what it was before the pandemic.

In August, the United States allowed only 12 round-trip passenger flights per week between China and the United States. This number was to increase to 18 per week from September 1 and to 24 per week from October 29.

Other regions saw flights to and from China resume 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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