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Updated January 16th, 2024 at 11:17 IST

Thailand, China announce permanent visa waiver, boosting economic ties and tourism

Thailand, Southeast Asia's second-largest economy, heavily reliant on tourism, had earlier implemented a visa waiver program for Chinese tourists.

Reported by: Sankunni K
Thailand tourism
Thailand tourism | Image:Yatra.com
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Thailand and China have decided to permanently waive visa requirements for each other's citizens, effective from March, according to an announcement made by Thailand Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, news agency Reuters reported on Tuesday, January 2. This development marks a milestone in diplomatic relations and is expected to have a profound impact on tourism and economic cooperation between the two nations.

Thailand, Southeast Asia's second-largest economy, heavily reliant on tourism, had earlier implemented a visa waiver program for Chinese tourists, allowing entry until February this year. The new decision to permanently waive visas is poised to enhance the relationship between Thailand and China, as stated by Prime Minister Srettha during a press briefing.

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The ‘Land of Smiles’ welcomed 28 million foreign tourists in 2023, surpassing its target, and generated a revenue of 1.2 trillion baht ($34.93 billion). Notably, China played a pivotal role as the second-largest source market, with 3.5 million arrivals contributing to this success. This surge in Chinese tourists came against the backdrop of a pre-COVID record of 39 million arrivals, with 11 million from China.

Thailand's strategic move to boost tourism includes the implementation of a visa waiver program, initially introduced between September 25 and February 29, 2024, specifically targeting Chinese visitors. Under this scheme, tourists could stay for up to 30 days, with the government aiming to attract five million Chinese tourists by the end of the year.

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The economic outlook for Thailand is optimistic, with GDP projected to grow between 2.7 per cent and 3.6 per cent in 2023, driven by a recovering tourism industry and improved private consumption. Thailand's tourism sector, contributing approximately 20 per cent to GDP, is on the path to revival, with the government's strategic initiatives to attract high-value tourists.

Beyond tourism, Thailand presents diverse investment opportunities, particularly in manufacturing. The country aims to position itself as a hub for electric vehicle (EV) production, with major automakers like Mercedes and Toyota already making significant investments. The government's incentives, such as tax holidays and support for EV infrastructure, have accelerated Thailand's emergence as an EV production hub in the region.

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The visa waiver program aligns with Thailand's broader economic goals, emphasising high-end tourism, smart farming, and precision agriculture. The government's focus on attracting higher-value tourists and leveraging technology in agriculture presents promising opportunities for both domestic and foreign investors.

As the permanent visa waiver takes effect in March, it is anticipated to strengthen people-to-people ties, facilitate smoother travel, and foster deeper economic cooperation between Thailand and China. The business and tourism sectors in both countries are poised to benefit significantly from this landmark decision.

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Published January 2nd, 2024 at 10:10 IST

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