Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin announced that starting March, Thailand and China will mutually eliminate visa requirements for each other’s citizens on a permanent basis. In an effort to enhance tourist arrivals, Thailand initially removed visas for Chinese nationals in September. The response to this program was robust, especially as Thailand was facing a decline in appeal for Chinese travelers.
During the first two days of the waiver, over 22,000 Chinese visitors entered Thailand. Prime Minister Srettha expressed readiness to welcome tourists from both countries and emphasized that this initiative signifies an upgrade to the relations between Thailand and China, enhancing the significance of Thai passports.
Chinese tourists constitute the second-largest group of foreign visitors to Thailand, following Malaysians. Despite the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s projection of up to 3.5 million Chinese visitors for 2023, which falls short of the 4 million target, it represents a considerable improvement from the 2022 figure of 270,000. Challenges such as a shortage of low-cost flights post-COVID and a slowing Chinese economy have contributed to a reluctance among tourists to visit Thailand.
Safety concerns, including rumors of tourists being kidnapped and sent to work in scam centers in neighboring countries, and incidents like a shooting in Bangkok’s famous shopping mall in October, have also impacted tourism. Nevertheless, the Tourism Authority has set an ambitious target of 8.2 million Chinese tourists for 2024.
In a reciprocal move, China has been waiving visa requirements to attract tourists. In November, it initiated a visa-free trial for visitors from several European countries and Malaysia, effective until the end of November the following year.