Thailand and China to Scrap Visa Requirements Starting March

Thailand and China to Scrap Visa Requirements Starting March
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Thailand and China have agreed to permanently abolish visa requirements for their respective citizens from March this year, according to Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin. The decision was announced at a press conference on Tuesday, January 2, where Srettha expressed the willingness of both countries to open their doors to each other and welcome tourists. The visa waiver is seen as a boost to bilateral relations and will increase the value of Thai passports.

The Thai government plans to sign a bilateral agreement by the end of February 2024 to waive visa requirements between the two countries, allowing Chinese citizens to stay in Thailand for up to 30 days per entry, with multiple entries within 180 days extending the stay to 90 days.

The move follows Thailand's earlier move in September to free up visas for Chinese citizens, a strategy aimed at boosting tourist visits, especially after Thailand's appeal to Chinese tourists declined.

In the first two days of the visa waiver, more than 22,000 Chinese citizens entered Thailand, making them the second largest group of foreign visitors after Malaysia. The Tourism Authority of Thailand's projections in November indicated a target of up to 3.5 million visitors from China in 2023, although slightly below the 4 million target. This is still a significant increase from 2022 when only 270,000 Chinese tourists visited Thailand. The figure is still less than half of the 2019 figure, which was close to 11 million Chinese tourists.

Factors such as the lack of low-cost flights after COVID and China's economic slowdown have contributed to the decline in tourist interest in visiting Thailand. Safety concerns, including rumors of tourist kidnappings and the Bangkok shooting, have also made Chinese tourists uncomfortable.

Nevertheless, tourism authorities have set an ambitious target of attracting 8.2 million Chinese tourists by 2024. In an effort to achieve this goal, Thailand has agreed to reduce taxes on alcoholic beverages and eliminate the 10% ad valorem tax on local rice wine varieties.

This decision is expected to spur growth in the tourism sector, which is the backbone of Thailand's economy and contributes about 20% to its GDP. In 2023, Thailand is expected to welcome 28 million international tourists, generating $34.93 billion in revenue.

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