Thailand and China are set to mutually eliminate visa requirements for each other’s citizens starting from March, according to Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin.
This move comes after Thailand previously lifted visa requirements for Chinese nationals in September to revitalize tourist influx, especially amid declining interest from Chinese travelers. The initial visa waiver drew substantial attention, with over 22,000 Chinese visitors entering Thailand in the first two days.
Prime Minister Srettha expressed readiness to welcome tourists from both nations, describing this development as an enhancement of relations and an elevation of the significance of Thai passports.
Chinese tourists constitute the second-largest group of foreign visitors to Thailand, following Malaysians.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand, in November, projected up to 3.5 million Chinese visitors for the entire year 2023, falling short of the 4 million target.
While this figure is considerably lower than the nearly 11 million Chinese tourists in 2019, it signifies an improvement from the meager 270,000 received in 2022. Challenges such as a scarcity of affordable flights post-COVID and a decelerating Chinese economy contribute to the hesitancy among tourists to visit Thailand.
Safety concerns have also been raised due to rumors of tourists being abducted and forced to work in scam centers in neighboring countries, along with anxiety following a shooting incident in Bangkok’s renowned shopping mall in October.
In response to these dynamics, the Tourism Authority aims to attract 8.2 million Chinese tourists by 2024.
Meanwhile, China has been actively waiving visa requirements to attract tourists. In November, it initiated a visa-free trial for visitors from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Malaysia, effective until the end of November this year.