Mutual visa exemption agreement between China, Thailand boosts tourism recovery

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Two Chinese Tourists Buy Local Specialties
Two Chinese tourists buy local specialties at a duty-free shop of Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, Thailand. (Photo by Bai Yuanqi/People's Daily)

By Zhang Jinruo, 

The Wat Arun, a Buddhist temple by the Chao Phraya River, Bangkok, was crowded with sightseers, including Yu Fan, from east China’s Zhejiang province, who was looking for the best angle to take photographs, wearing a traditional Thai outfit with a matching Thai-style hair pin.

She told People’s Daily that her trip to Thailand was inspired by a mutual visa exemption agreement between China and Thailand.

“I’ve already been to attractions like Siam Square and Wat Paknam in Bangkok, and in a couple of days I’ll be going to Phuket as well,” she said.

On March 1, the mutual visa exemption agreement between China and Thailand officially took effect, leading to a continuous rise in the enthusiasm for travel between the two countries. 

According to Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports, as of March 31, Thailand received over 9.37 million foreign tourist visits this year, generating around 454.7 billion Thai baht ($12.38 billion) in revenue. Over 1.75 million visits were from China, making China the biggest source of tourists for Thailand during this period.

The arrival of Chinese tourists has driven the revival of Thailand’s tourism industry. Zhang Zhechen works in the hotel industry in Pattaya, Thailand, and has clearly felt the continued recovery of the local tourism sector since March of this year. 

“Since March, the occupancy rate at our hotel has exceeded 90 percent, and there are noticeably more Chinese tourists on the streets and beaches of Pattaya,” he said.

Adith Chairattananon, secretary general of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, stated that in 2023 there were around 3.5 million Chinese tourist visits to Thailand. Driven by policies like the mutual visa exemption agreement, the number is estimated to increase to 6 to 8 million this year, he said.

In February this year, Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports partnered with the National Institute of Emergency Medicine under the Ministry of Public Health to announce a 50-million-Baht medical funding to assist foreign tourists in case of accidents while traveling in Thailand. 

Thapanee Kiatphaibool, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said that China has always been a major source of visitors for Thailand, and Thailand hopes to demonstrate to Chinese tourists its continuous efforts to improve tourism safety standards, as well as the unique charm of Thailand as an ideal travel destination.

The mutual visa exemption between China and Thailand has also boosted the enthusiasm of Thai tourists to travel to China. Statistics showed that this March, the number of Thai nationals entering China through the Xishuangbanna airport in the southwest province of Yunnan increased by 1,183.87 percent from a month ago.

On the afternoon of March 1, Thai tourist Santi posted a photo of his passport cover on social media, showing his successful entry into China. The photo garnered tens of thousands of likes. Santi stated that the mutual visa exemption is excellent news for those who enjoy traveling to China.

Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, said that the mutual visa exemption agreement will promote the development of the tourism industries in both Thailand and China, and facilitate business exchanges between the two countries.

Korn Dabbaransi, former Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand and president of the Thai-Chinese Friendship Association, noted that the mutual visa exemption between Thailand and China reflects a further enhancement of the friendly relations between the two countries, which will bring more benefits and opportunities. 

The facilitated exchanges between the two peoples will drive growth in tourism revenue, promote cooperation in areas such as economy, trade, culture and education, help deepen understanding and friendship between the two peoples, and lay a solid people-to-people foundation for the long-term development of the two countries’ bilateral relations, he said.

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