Chinese visitors tour in Bangkok, Thailand in this file photo of Oct 7, 2023. [Photo/VCG]
Thailand will permanently waive visa requirements for Chinese tourists starting on March 1, Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin announced on Jan 2 after a Cabinet meeting in Bangkok.
Thailand had previously granted a temporary visa waiver for visitors from China and Kazakhstan, which is set to expire on Feb 29.
After negotiations with related Chinese authorities, the Thai government has now opted to adopt a permanent visa-free policy for Chinese tourists starting on March 1, Srettha said at a news conference following the Cabinet meeting.
"This will not only boost Thailand's tourism industry but also signify further improvement in the friendly relations between the two countries," he added.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin confirmed that authorities on the two sides are in close communication regarding the matter and China looks forward to the arrangement's early implementation.
"The further strengthening of people-to-people exchanges and the mutual visa exemption policy (once implemented) will conform to the fundamental interests of both peoples," Wang told reporters at a regular news briefing on Jan 2.
Tourism plays a crucial role in Thailand's economy, with 28 million foreign tourist arrivals recorded last year, including about 4.4 million visitors from Malaysia, and 3.4 million from China.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Chinese nationals comprised the biggest group of foreign tourists to Thailand, with 10 million visits each year.
Thailand now plans a 3.5-trillion-baht ($102 billion) boost for its economy via the tourism sector in 2024, aiming to establish the nation as an all-season tourist destination.
During the Tourism Authority of Thailand's recent promotion activity targeting the Chinese market, Sudawan Wangsuphakijkosol, Thai minister of tourism and sports, said that China has been a key source market for Thailand and has had a significant impact on the Thai economy.
"The Thai government is committed to providing high-quality tourism experiences for Chinese tourists. Our strategies include the development of new attractions in tandem with the promotion of Thai soft powers and meaningful travel experiences," she said.
"Equally important is the safety measures to ensure that Chinese tourists can enjoy peace of mind throughout their travels in Thailand," she added.
China now enjoys comprehensive mutual visa exemption with 23 countries after reaching an agreement on mutual visa exemption with Thailand on Jan 28.
China and Thailand signed an agreement on mutual visa exemption for holders of ordinary passports and passports for public affairs on Jan 28.