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China, Thailand enter 'visa-free' era from March 1
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China, Thailand enter 'visa-free' era from March 1

China and Thailand permanently exempted visa requirements for each other's citizens on March 1, right after a temporary visa waiver for Chinese visitors that commenced last September expired on Feb. 29.

The new deal is expected to facilitate tourism and economic recovery in both countries.

Under the new arrangement, Chinese passport holders are granted visa-free travel and a maximum stay of 30 days per entry in Thailand and vice versa. A total of 90 days stay is allowed in case of multiple entries within 180 days.

A booster for tourism and economic recovery

Thailand's promotion of a visa-free policy is regarded as a way to lift the tourism industry and national economy by enticing more Chinese travelers.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, China was a leading contributor to Thailand's tourism sector, which is a key factor in the growth of Southeast Asia's second-largest economy. However, the comeback of Chinese tourists to Thailand has been slow.

In 2019, visitors from China constituted over 25 percent of the total 40 million foreign arrivals. However, in the past year, they comprised only 3.5 million of the 28 million tourists, which fell short of the 4-million target set by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, making it only the second largest group of foreign visitors after Malaysians.

In 2024, the tourism authority has set the target for Chinese tourists at 8.2 million, with expectations running high on the visa-free policy.

"This will not only boost Thailand's tourism industry but also signify further improvement in the friendly relations between the two countries," Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin anticipated at a press conference after a cabinet meeting.

A driver of people-to-people exchanges

Chinese spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Wang Wenbin foresees a significant increase in the number of Chinese tourists visiting Thailand. "This visa-free era will bring people-to-people exchanges to a new height," Wang added.

"No need for a visa. No fee is charged. All you need is a plane ticket. It is as easy as an inbound travel to Sanya," a Chinese netizen shared her excitement in a post on China's lifestyle-sharing social media platform Xiaohongshu.

Hearing news of the continuation of the visa waiver policy, an avid traveler surnamed Xu from Beijing told that she plans to move up her schedule to visit Thailand.

Despite Chinese sightseers' enthusiasm, industrial experts advise cautious optimism.

"Visitors from China are highly likely to grow in numbers, but the appeal of the visa-free policy could be diluted by other countries that have announced similar policies, including Singapore and Malaysia," said Zhao Jun, founder of Lanmao Travel, a leading self-guided tour company focused on the Southeast Asian market.

"Visa-free policy for Chinese tourists is the way to go in Southeast Asia," Zhao added. With more mutual visa-free policies being reached between China and countries in the region, analysts pointed out that China will open its gate wider and there will be more cultural exchanges.  


Ecns.cnShen Yi

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