Visa-free travel to boost tourism for China, Thailand

Red lanterns are hung high over Yaowarat Road as it is a golden opportunity to cater to Chinese tourists coming here to spend their Lunar New Year holidays.

Red lanterns are hung high over Yaowarat Road, where Chinatown in the Thai capital of Bangkok is located, and shops are well prepared, as it is a golden opportunity to cater to Chinese tourists coming here to spend their Lunar New Year holidays.

"Bangkok's Chinatown hosts a variety of activities for the Chinese New Year, and we can feel the auspicious and festive atmosphere," said Wang Xuanyu, 36-year-old, who came from Beijing and chose to spend the Chinese New Year holiday in Thailand.

The trip was very convenient, and the entry process was very smooth, she said.

In order to boost the economy, the Thai government has granted Chinese citizens a temporary visa waiver since September 25, 2023.

In late January this year, China and Thailand signed an agreement on mutual visa exemption, effective on March 1.

With the signing of the agreement, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Thailand has significantly increased.

Thailand's Ministry of Tourism and Sports predicted that approximately 8 million Chinese tourists will take trips in Thailand in 2024, bringing in approximately 320 billion baht (approximately 8.9 billion US dollars).

Tourism and Sports Minister Sudawan Wangsuphakijkosol said Thailand was expecting to welcome nearly 1 million foreign tourists on February 7-15, of which about 180,000 are from China.

The Thai tourism industry has already prepared to welcome Chinese tourists. "With the signing of the agreement, inquiries from Chinese guests have significantly increased, and it is expected that there will be a surge in Chinese tourists," a hotel manager from the coastal city Hua Hin told Xinhua.

"Mutual visa exemption has lowered the threshold and cost of tourism, facilitating exchanges between the peoples of the two countries and injecting strong impetus into the recovery and prosperity of Thailand's tourism industry," said Chanapan Kaewklachaiyawuth, vice president of the Thai Chinese Tourism Alliance Association.

"Tourism resources of Thailand and China are complementary. China is one of the nearest ice and snow tourism destinations to the Thai people. The signing of the agreement on mutual visa exemption will further encourage Thai tourists to travel to China," said Chanapan.

He added that the agreement will surely promote the prosperity of the tourism industries of Thailand and China, and enhance cultural exchanges between the two sides.

Pat, a 38-year-old Bangkok resident, said that her parents have traveled to China with a tour group before, but she has not been to China and would love to see China's beautiful scenery.

"After mutual exemption takes effect, Thai people will no longer have to apply for visas, which could save time and money," Pat said.

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