Thailand has announced a temporary suspension of visa requirements for tourists from China and Kazakhstan during the bustling holiday period. This decision reflects Thailand’s strategic reliance on the travel sector to stimulate the economy, solidifying its position as Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy.
Effective from September 25th to February 29th, Chinese and Kazakh tourists can explore Thailand without the need for a visa, as confirmed by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin following a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. The initiative is anticipated to draw an additional 5 million tourists, according to Thailand Tourism Minister Sudawan Wangsuphakijkosol.
The move signals the new Thai government’s commitment to prioritizing the revival of the nation’s tourism industry as a paramount economic goal. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has affirmed that this visa exemption will apply to visitors from Kazakhstan as well, and thorough preparations have been undertaken to accommodate the anticipated surge in traveler arrivals.
China has been a significant source of tourists for Thailand for over a decade, with nearly 11 million visitors in 2019, constituting 27.6% of total arrivals in the year preceding the pandemic’s impact.
The government’s rationale for this visa free entry to Chinese change stems from concerns that the number of Chinese tourists this year might not reach the initial target of 5 million due to stringent visa requirements. The Tourism Authority of Thailand has reported approximately 1.4 million Chinese tourists during the first half of this year.
Thailand’s economy experienced a severe downturn during the pandemic, with its tourism sector virtually collapsing. In 2019, the country welcomed approximately 40 million international visitors, generating an estimated 1.9 trillion baht ($53.2 billion) in revenue. However, this revenue plummeted by more than 99% by 2021, according to data from the Ministry of Tourism and Sports.
Chai Wacharonke, a spokesperson for the Office of the Prime Minister, reported that Thailand received 15 million international visitors in the first seven months of this year. The government’s ambitious goal is to attract 28 million international visitors and generate 1.4 trillion baht ($39.2 billion) in tourism revenue in 2023.
Chai expressed optimism about the visa exemption scheme, asserting that the tourism industry is “the only economic engine remaining that can be driven with hope to quickly generate new income for Thailand.”
In addition to the visa free entry to Chinese, the Cabinet has approved other measures to alleviate economic burdens, including a reduction in electricity fees, diesel prices, and a three-year debt relief program for farmers, addressing the rising cost of living and other economic challenges.