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Sun. Apr 21st, 2024

In a significant move to enhance bilateral ties and stimulate tourism, Thailand and China have declared the permanent waiver of visa requirements for each other’s citizens, set to take effect from March. Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin emphasized the readiness of both countries to welcome tourists and highlighted the positive impact this decision would have on relations.

The initiative began in September when Thailand initially waived visas for Chinese nationals, aiming to revitalize its tourism sector. The response was robust, with over 22,000 Chinese visitors entering Thailand within the first two days of the waiver, countering a recent decline in appeal for Chinese travelers.

Srettha Thavisin stated at a press conference on Tuesday, “This is an upgrade to the relations between Thailand and China and a boost to the significance of Thai passports.” China ranks as the second-largest group of foreign visitors to Thailand, trailing only Malaysians.

While the Tourism Authority of Thailand projected up to 3.5 million Chinese visitors for 2023, it remains below the 4 million target. Despite challenges such as a post-Covid shortage of low-cost flights and a slowing Chinese economy, this marks a notable improvement from the 2022 figure of 270,000 Chinese tourists.

Concerns over safety, fueled by rumors of tourists being kidnapped and sent to work in scam centers, as well as a shooting incident in a prominent Bangkok shopping mall in October, contributed to hesitancy among tourists. Nonetheless, the Tourism Authority aims to attract 8.2 million Chinese tourists in 2024.

In a reciprocal effort to boost tourism, China has also been waiving visa requirements. Last November, a visa-free trial was introduced for visitors from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Malaysia, effective until the end of November this year.

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