China’s outbound tourism saw steady growth in the first half of this year, and countries involved in the Belt & Road Initiative have emerged as popular attractions for Chinese travellers, the China Tourism Academy said in a news conference in Beijing.

The academy said Chinese travellers made about 81.3 million outbound visits from January to June, up 14 percent over the same period in 2018.

Among overseas destinations that domestic travellers visited, attractions in BRI related countries saw continuous growth

Mafengwo, an online travel agency headquartered in Beijing, said in a report jointly released with the academy on Thursday that State policy plays a rather important role in affecting the destinations travellers select.

The online agency added that the initiative has strongly boosted tourism cooperation between China and BRI-involved countries, bringing attractions in these places to the attention of more Chinese travellers.

For example, people’s willingness to travel to Italy rose by 28 percent year-on-year in the first half after the country signed a memorandum of understanding with China in March.

Travel to Montenegro surged 161 percent year-on-year in the first six months, Mafengwo said.

Zhao Ran, Mafengwo’s Marketing Strategy Manager, said at the news conference that the reason some travel to initiative-related destinations is due to easier visa policies and convenient transportation, thus luring more Chinese visitors.

The Ministry of Transport said there were now nonstop flights between China and 45 BRI-related countries and regions.

Also, about 112 new flight routes were opened since 2018 to BRI-related countries and regions, covering nearly 84 percent of domestic provinces.

Meanwhile, more travel-friendly visa policies were launched as 131 countries and regions had signed cooperative agreements with China as of the end of April. Among them, 52 offered visa-waiver policies or visas upon arrival to Chinese travellers, thus facilitating tourism development.

He Qiongfeng, a Researcher at the tourism academy, said at the news conference that outbound countries preferred of late by Chinese were mainly in Asia and Eastern Europe and were also involved with the BRI.

“BRI Countries in Eastern Europe saw rather high increases of Chinese travellers in the past half year,” she said.