Skift Take

You know China is serious about boosting inbound tourism when in a span of less than two months the country has announced visa waivers for 8 countries.

China will now be entering into a reciprocal agreement with Thailand for permanent waiver of visa requirements for citizens of the two countries from March onwards.

Announcing this, Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said on Tuesday, the arrangement would serve to upgrade the relationship between the two countries.

Thailand had earlier waived off entry requirements for Chinese tourists until February this year, allowing Chinese tourists to stay in the country visa free for 30 days. China had so far not reciprocated the favor until today’s announcement.

On Tuesday, Wang Wenbin, the spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, stated that the two countries are in discussion regarding the details of mutually exempting visa requirements for their citizens.

2023 for Thailand Tourism

For Thailand, which welcomed almost 28 million foreign tourists in 2023, slightly above its target, this could be a game-changer.

With 3.5 million arrivals, Chinese tourists were the second largest visitors into Thailand, after Malaysia. In 2019, China was the biggest inbound market for Thailand with 10 million tourists.

Thailand aims to generate tourism revenue worth 3.5 trillion baht ($100 billion) in 2024.

On Tuesday, the country also announced its plan to simplify the process for foreign tourists to obtain value-added tax refunds on items bought in Thailand.

Tourists purchasing goods up to 20,000 baht ($585) will no longer be required to present them to customs officials during the refund process, a notable increase from the previous limit of 5,000 baht ($146).

China’s Inbound Focus

China recently implemented a policy for visa-free travel for five European countries and Malaysia, following a trial period. Effective from December 1, 2023, to November 30, 2024, this policy enables ordinary passport holders from France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, and Malaysia to stay in China for up to 15 days without a visa.

Around 214,000 people from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Malaysia entered the country in December 2023, an increase of 28.5 percent compared with November, according to the latest data from National Immigration Administration.

“Of these inbound trips, 118,000 were made by ordinary passport holders without a visa, accounting for 55% of all inbound trips from the six countries during this period. Around 91,000 visa-free entries were made for travel and business,” the government announced on Tuesday.

Additionally, China has also agreed on a reciprocal visa-free agreement with Singapore allowing 30 days of visa-free travel between citizens of the two countries.

Commencing this Monday, China has also streamlined entry regulations for U.S. citizens traveling on tourist visas. Tourist visa applicants from the U.S. will no longer need to provide evidence of round-trip air tickets, hotel reservations, itinerary, or an invitation letter.


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Tags: asia monthly, china, coronavirus recovery, thailand, visa waiver

Photo credit: China and Thailand agree on permanent waiver of visa requirements for citizens of the two countries from March. Hassas Arts / Pixabay

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