According to the most recent news, Thailand and China have established a historic deal to enhance tourism. Both countries have agreed to permanently remove visa restrictions for citizens of the other country, which will take effect in March.
Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin addressed this momentous development, emphasizing the reciprocal benefits that it will offer to both countries. According to reports, Thailand took moves to enhance its tourism business in September by dismissing visas for Chinese nationals.
The original visa waiver for Chinese citizens was a huge success, especially as Thailand was seeing a decline in Chinese tourist visitation. However, more than 22,000 Chinese visitors entered Thailand in the first two days of the waiver, indicating that the program had a good impact. Prime Minister Srettha underlined his pleasure for welcoming tourists from both countries, emphasizing Thailand's readiness to open its doors and assure visitors' safety.
Prime Minister Srettha described the visa waiver as a 'improvement' to Thailand-China relations, and emphasized the positive impact on the value of Thai passports. Chinese tourists are currently the second-largest group of international visitors to Thailand, after only Malaysians. Despite the positive prognosis, Thailand's tourist landscape has encountered hurdles, including a shortage of low-cost flights following COVID-19 and a slowing Chinese economy.
Concerns about safety have also been raised, exacerbated by rumors of visitors being kidnapped and forced to work in fraud centers in other nations. Thailand's Tourism Authority established a target of luring up to 3.5 million Chinese visitors in 2023, falling short of its 4 million target. This prediction, however, indicates a huge increase over the meager 270,000 Chinese tourists received in 2022. Looking ahead, the tourism authority has set an ambitious aim of 8.2 million Chinese tourists for 2024.
Notably, China has also been actively waiving visa requirements to attract tourists. In November, the country announced a visa-free trial for visitors from several European countries and Malaysia, aiming to encourage international travel. This program, which began in December, is slated to continue until the end of November this year. The reciprocal visa waivers between Thailand and China are part of a larger trend of countries using similar measures to boost tourism and strengthen diplomatic ties.
On the other hand, if the visa waiver encourages tourism in Thailand and China at the expense of other countries, including India, the Indian tourism industry may face issues. And, in order to do so, Indian authorities may need to reconsider their strategy for attracting and retaining overseas tourists.
Furthermore, because India has regional relations with both China and Thailand, the visa waiver is anticipated to encourage increased tourism between these two nations, perhaps leading to regional economic growth and collaboration. With this, India may encounter difficulties in preserving or increasing its proportion of international tourists in the region.