The new Thai cabinet has proposed a temporary visa exemption for Chinese tourists in support of the country’s tourism industry recovery and efforts to welcome at least 28 million visitors by year’s end. The policy is expected to begin next month and remain in effect until the end of the next high tourism season.
New prime minister Srettha Thavisin, who has expressed his government’s commitment to supporting tourism as a stimulus for the economy, met with key stakeholders on September 10 to iron out the mechanics of the rollout. Visa offices nationwide are reportedly preparing for the additional workload of visa-free Chinese entries.
Thailand already offers 30-day visa-free entry to another significant market, Russia.
Adith Chairattananon, honorary secretary-general of ATTA, noted that visa exemptions can serve as a short-term marketing tool to increase demand, citing a 2019 WTTC study that showed visa waivers lead to a 16.6 per cent increase in travel demand, while introducing new types of visas can increase travel by 8.1 per cent.
“The Chinese market is sensitive to visa fees and overall ease of entry procedures, so we believe that these measures should increase visitors from these markets by at least 10 per cent,” he told TTG Asia.
He added that additional flights between Thailand and China were also needed to maximise the positive outcomes of visa exemptions.
“If there aren’t enough carriers, passengers cannot be transported (to Thailand),” he remarked.
Adith also stressed the importance of government-led efforts, especially by the prime minister, in engaging China in tourism discussions and creating incentives for airlines to boost flight operations to Thailand.
The new government has included in its policy statement plans to increase flight volume to Thailand and boost the local airport infrastructure.
On September 11, Thai Airways International (THAI) announced in response to a visit from the prime minister that it will increase flight frequencies to various destinations in China during this year’s high season. Between October 29 and March 30, THAI will operate daily flights to Shanghai and Guangzhou. Starting December 1, THAI will also operate daily flights to Beijing, Chengdu and Kunming.
As of July, ATTA recorded 1.9 million Chinese arrivals – approximately 40 per cent of the corresponding period in 2019.
China is currently grappling with economic challenges such as a weak yuan and inflation that have led to lower spending power, curbing outbound travel demand.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand in August revised its estimates for Chinese arrivals down to four million, from 5.8 million previously.