Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has announced that from March this year, China and Thailand will permanently waive visa requirements for each other’s nationals. This announcement comes as Thailand’s current period of visa-free entry for Chinese citizens which has been in place since September, comes to an end in February.
Wang Wenbin, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson confirmed that the authorities from the two countries are currently refining the details of the arrangement. Wang states that furthering China-Thai communications by waiving visas is “in accordance with the interests of both peoples”.
Recently China has been strengthening cross-border travel with other countries. Since last November, nationals of six countries could travel to China for business or pleasure for up to 15 days visa-free. The nations included in this policy are France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Malaysia. Shortly after, Malaysia announced that they would be waiving visa requirements for Chinese citizens until the end of 2024 for visits up to 30 days.
On 16 December, China and Singapore announced a mutual 30-day visa-free policy. The arrangement is due to be implemented early this year, although details have not yet been unveiled. At the same time, Indonesia is also considering visa waivers for nationals of 20 countries including China, India and the US.
The South China Morning Post reported that China’s cross-border travel during the New Year holiday season had returned to pre-pandemic levels. 5.18 million border crossings took place across Mainland China between 30 Dec and 1 Jan, an increase of nearly 5 times compared to last year. Arrivals and departures are now reaching the same levels as they were in 2019. 28.5% of inbound arrivals during December were from the 6 countries that could enjoy a visa-free entrance.
Chinese tourists are the second largest group of visitors to Thailand after Malaysians. With almost 11 million visitors in 2019, Chinese visitors made up 27.6% of all visits that year. However, in 2023, only 3.5 million Chinese visitors were expected to have visited Thailand, according to Thailand’s Tourism Authorities’ estimation in November. The mutual visa waiver would be a much-needed boost to Thailand’s tourism and economy and will also benefit Chinese tourists.
By Yimin Wong