25th September 2023 – (Bangkok) Thailand rolled out the red carpet on Monday as Chinese tourists arrived in the country to a VIP welcome. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin personally greeted the first batch of visitors who landed in Thailand after the country waived visas for Chinese nationals, in a bold move to revitalize its crucial tourism industry.
The Chinese tourists, arriving from Shanghai, were treated to a grand spectacle of traditional dancers in vibrant costumes and skilled puppeteers showcasing their talents. Captivated by the memorable moments, the tourists couldn’t resist pausing to take selfies with Prime Minister Srettha himself.
Tourism plays a pivotal role in Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, renowned for its picturesque beaches and vibrant nightlife. Restoring the tourism sector, severely impacted by the pandemic, is a top priority for newly elected Prime Minister Srettha, who inherited an underperforming economy.
However, China’s own economic challenges in the post-pandemic era have resulted in a decline in Chinese tourists, who were once Thailand’s largest market. The visa waiver initiative aims to address this issue and attract more visitors from China to Thailand.
“We are confident this policy will stimulate the economy,” stated the prime minister during a press conference at Suvarnabhumi airport. He emphasized that ensuring the safety of tourists would be of paramount concern.
Effective from September 25 until February next year, the visa waiver program is expected to welcome 2.88 million Chinese visitors during this five-month period, surpassing the 2.34 million Chinese tourists who have visited Thailand so far this year.
The simplified entry process facilitated by the visa waiver has already started to attract new visitors.
Before the pandemic, China held the title of Thailand’s largest source of tourists, with 11 million arrivals out of a record-breaking 39.9 million visitors in 2019. Chinese tourists also contributed a staggering 1.91 trillion baht (US$53.11 billion) to Thailand’s economy.
Chinese tourists are drawn to Thailand for its stunning beaches and delectable cuisine.
Since the beginning of this year, Thailand has welcomed 19 million visitors. With the visa waiver for Chinese tourists in place, the country aims to attract a greater number of visitors and revive its tourism industry, contributing to the overall economic recovery.
However, Thailand’s tourism industry has faced challenges due to online rumours and the influence of a blockbuster movie titled “No More Bets,” which portrays a negative image of the kingdom among Chinese tourists. The movie, based on “real events,” revolves around a computer programmer who ends up in a violent scamming compound in Southeast Asia after being trafficked through a country similar to Thailand. While the movie has some basis in reality, the incidents it portrays are not representative of the typical tourist experience in Thailand.
To address the concerns raised by these rumours, the Thai government has assured visitors of their safety and taken measures to counter the negative perception. The temporary visa waiver for Chinese travellers is part of the government’s efforts to restart the flow of tourists from China.
Thailand remains hopeful that with the visa waiver and continued efforts to promote its attractions, Chinese tourists will regain confidence and once again choose the country as their preferred holiday destination.