This Monday marks one month since the visa exemption agreement between Thailand and China took effect.  According to Vichai Mongkolchaichawan, the vice president of the Thai-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, the outlook is positive.

During the period leading up to the start of the scheme “the number of searches for Thailand tourism on Baidu for January and February, surged by 48%”, Vichai said.

Most of these searches were by users in Guangdong, Zhejiang, Hunan, Shanghai and Beijing.

Vichai was speaking at a forum, entitled ‘Thai – China Visa Free Scheme, Long-lasting Friendship and Prospering Economy’, hosted by the Thai-Chinese Journalists’ Association (TCJA).

Kamphol Mahanukul, the TCJA president said, however, that the airlines and hotels need to be ready to accommodate more tourists attracted by the scheme, as Thai tourism is still dealing with its post-COVID recovery.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) set the target number for Chinese visitors at 8 million people this year, China’s Ambassador to Thailand Han Zhiqiang meanwhile emphasised the strong trade ties between the two countries.

“China is Thailand’s biggest trade partner, our bilateral trade was valued at USD126.3 billion last year”, he said in his keynote speech at the forum organised by the Thai – Chinese Journalist Association.

With the visa exemption, this number could potentially increase.

Han Zhiqiang, China’s Ambassador to Thailand
(Photo: Thai – Chinese Journalist Association)

Referring to much-criticised ‘grey Chinese assets’, the ambassador said, “if we compare Chinese investments in Thailand to a forest, and ‘grey assets’ to weed, what we need to do is eliminate those poisonous weed and protect the forest, rather than abandoning the whole forest”.

He also sees the visa exemption scheme as a move that will help strengthen the bilateral ties which will celebrate their 50th anniversary next year.

According to an outbound tour operator, Pravit Thangthaweesook, his customers are very pleased with the time and cost savings benefits from the new visa exemption.

He adds that “the scheme makes it easier for my clients to make their decisions to travel. Previously, people needed to plan ahead by at least a week to accommodate for the visa application process. Now that they don’t need a visa, they can book just two days ahead”.

Pravit also said that he is seeing a marked increase in bookings for the coming months.

China currently has various mutual visa exemption agreements with 153 countries.

The agreement with Thailand allows for 30 day travel for holders of Thai ordinary passports, Chinese passports for public affairs and ordinary Chinese passports. It also allows for multiple entry but the cumulative stays must not exceed 90 days in any 180-day period.