China has simplified procedures for international travelers who drive cars through the country, making it more practical.
The ministries of Public Security, Foreign Affairs and the National Tourism Administration jointly released a notice in late August to manage international tourists' driving trips in China, effective Oct 1.
"Public security bureaus and tourism administrations at all levels are no longer issuing approval documents for international tourists' self-driving trips in China. Organisations should not require these documents to issue driving permits for international travel," the notice said.
According to the notice, all international tourists' driving trips must be arranged by a certain number of tourism agencies with approval licenses. Agencies must arrange tour guides to follow the entire trip. No individual trip is allowed.
"It is a sign that China's tourism is going global and becoming more open, aiming to link to the world," said Wei Xiao'an, China Tourism Leisure Association secretary-general, adding that the regulation is not for foreigners who reside in China but for tourists only.
"Under current policy, it is very complicated to have a self-driving trip for international tourists, including going through public securities and customs. The complex procedure makes foreigners' self-driving hardly possible in China," Wei said, adding that the new policy might be a signal to gradually nurture the market of foreigner's driving trips.
However, Wei said it is hard to predict the potential of the market. "It depends heavily on the tourism products and season," he said, adding that the notice is only a start for the market to grow.
"Currently, foreign travelers' driving business accounts for less than 1 per cent of the company's inbound tourism business," said Yu Liangbing, deputy general manager of inbound tourism under China CYTS Tours, adding that many countries have complicated procedures regarding foreigners' driving, not only in China.
He also hopes that the future policies regarding foreigners' driving can continue to be simplified.
"For instance, if international travelers rent vehicles in China, there will be more specific policies to manage their trips," he said.