BEIJING, Sept. 28 (Xinhua) -- Chinese are enjoying greater convenience in making outbound trips and more visa-free travel options, which mirrors the country's economic growth and increasing confidence and openness over the last 70 years.
According to the National Immigration Administration (NIA), about 1.05 billion outbound trips were made by Chinese mainland residents from 2009 to 2018, with over 160 million in 2018 alone. In comparison, around 330 million trips were made between the year 1978, when China started its reform and opening-up, and 2008.
The figure was about 1.7 million in the first three decades since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
The country's policies on citizens' private outbound trips have changed from being restrictive to gradually easing and are now quite convenient, said Min Haiyun, head of the exit-entry department of the NIA.
The number of Chinese passport holders has also grown rapidly over the past 70 years, he said.
In the first three decades since 1949, about 210,000 passports were issued. In 2017, 26.74 million passports were issued, up 372.3 percent from 5.66 million in 2007, and it surged to 30.08 million in 2018.
Today, around 13 percent of the mainland residents have held valid regular passports, and the number is expected to exceed 200 million at the end of 2019.
Chinese people now travel around the world more easily than ever, showing broader international recognition of China's comprehensive strength and travel market, said Xiong Shuren, another official from the NIA.
As of 2019, 72 countries and regions have offered visa-free or visa-on-arrival entry for Chinese citizens holding regular passports. In addition, 159 countries have become destinations for Chinese tour groups.
Citizens traveling abroad have received timely and adequate protection and assistance when emergencies occur. The NIA has actively responded to emergencies involving Chinese citizens abroad by verifying their identities, facilitating the application of their families' travel documents and exit-entry procedures, Xiong said.
In recent years, measures have been rolled out to streamline the procedures for applying for travel documents and facilitate customs clearance of passengers.
Chinese citizens on the mainland, regardless of where they were born or live, have been able to apply for passports at any immigration administration across the country since April this year. The processing time has been halved to seven days.
For those who urgently need travel documents, the immigration administrations offer speedy services according to relevant policies.
Border ports have opened passages specifically for Chinese citizens to shorten the waiting time to cross the border. From June 2018, they have tried to limit the waiting time to within 30 minutes.