Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Homese asiaChinese tourists get visa-free entry to Thailand in busy season

Chinese tourists get visa-free entry to Thailand in busy season

BANGKOK – Thailand will waive visa requirements for travellers from China and Kazakhstan in the busy holiday season, as the tourism-reliant nation turns to the travel industry to prop up South-east Asia’s second-largest economy. 

Chinese and Kazakhstani tourists will be able to enter Thailand without a visa between Sept 25 and Feb 29, 2024, Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin told reporters after a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

The temporary waiver is expected to attract five million additional visitors, according to Tourism Minister Sudawan Wangsuphakijkosol.

The measure is part of Thailand’s goal to raise tourism revenue to its pre-Covid-19 levels, with a target of 3.1 trillion baht (S$118 billion) in 2024.

Thailand has welcomed 18.5 million foreign tourists so far in 2023, with as many as 28 million expected by the end of the year. Revenue from foreign travellers totalled 775 billion baht as at Sept 11, according to the Tourism Ministry. 

Chinese travellers, the largest group of visitors to Thailand before the Covid-19 pandemic, are considered crucial for the recovery of the local tourism industry.

Meanwhile, more and more tourists from Kazakhstan are visiting Thailand, with a significant increase in their numbers expected in the coming months because of harsh winter conditions at home, Mr Srettha said. 

Tourists from some nations face a costly and cumbersome visa application process, which has been a drag on the Thai tally in 2023, according to the Premier.

Mr Srettha, a real-estate tycoon who was also the chairman of US-based hotel operator Standard International before joining politics, has said that he wants the list of visa-exempt countries to be expanded and stay limits to be increased for most international travellers, with caps of 15 or 30 days for many nationalities. 

In August, Mr Srettha held meetings with representatives from airlines to discuss initiatives to boost tourism. Airports of Thailand, which operates six airports in the country, aims to increase flight capacity by 20 per cent to accommodate an expected high season. 

The country aims to draw a record 40 million visitors in 2024, government spokesman Chai Watcharong said during a briefing. Chinese tourists accounted for nearly a third of Thailand’s almost 40 million tourist arrivals in 2019 before the pandemic. BLOOMBERG

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