Visa-free policy for Chinese tourists may boost economy, workload

Thai Tourism is bracing for a boost with visa-free policy for Chinese tourists.

The first meeting of the new government’s Cabinet this week will discuss the predicted increase in workload for authorities as they prepare to implement a proposed visa-free policy for Chinese visitors. The policy is viewed as a major strategy to boost Thailand’s tourism sector, expected to generate massive revenue, according to Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin.

The prime minister has consistently prioritised tourism as a vital engine of economic growth. One of his initial actions as premier involved a tour of Phuket to gain firsthand knowledge of the tourism situation. With the visa-free policy set to launch on October 1, major tourist provinces are gearing up for an influx of Chinese visitors.

“The tourism sector has reacted optimistically to the policy to spur arrivals of Chinese tourists, who make up a significant segment of international visitors.”

The proposed visa-free policy for Chinese tourists, expected to last until the end of the high tourist season in the first quarter of next year, is a short-term strategy to stimulate the tourism sector, which has been dramatically affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Phuket’s immigration office chief, Police Colonel Thanet Sukkachai, stated that his office had no issues with the visa-free policy. However, he noted that the policy would entail additional work to be processed by state authorities.

“We will be working harder once the visa-free policy is launched.”

Last month, Phuket saw 60,000 Chinese visitors, making them the largest group of foreign visitors to the island, followed by Russians and Australians. The island welcomed 300,000 foreign visitors overall last month.

However, the Immigration Bureau (IB) has voiced concerns that a visa waiver could create a loophole for illegal activities, potentially increasing their workload as they try to catch these elements once they enter the country.

In Chiang Mai, Governor Nirat Pongsitthithaworn stated that state agencies are evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of local tourism to create sector dynamics. Tourism generated 63 billion baht in revenue for Chiang Mai in the first eight months of this year, a number expected to rise to 80 billion baht by the end of the year, according to the governor.

Kemchart Somjaiwong, honorary chairman of the Khon Kaen Chamber of Commerce, advised the government and tourism businesses to promote other provinces, so the revenue from the visa-free initiative will be distributed more evenly.

Meanwhile, Soratheproj Pojanarat, deputy spokesman of the Thai Sang Thai Party, urged the government and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to address the negative publicity surrounding tourist safety issues in Thailand.

Adith Chairattananon, honorary secretary-general of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta), cited 2017 World Travel and Tourism Council data, stating that removing visa application red tape typically leads to an 8.1% increase in travel, while a visa waiver can double that number. He estimates that the visa-free policy could bring an additional 500,000 to 700,000 Chinese visitors in the last quarter of this year.

TAT deputy governor for marketing communications, Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, stated that the planned visa-free policy has been well-received in China.

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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