China and Thailand Reach Agreement on Permanent Visa Waiver Starting March

In a significant development, China and Thailand have come to a mutual agreement to waive visa requirements for citizens of both countries permanently, effective from March onwards.Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin made the announcement on Tuesday, highlighting that this arrangement would serve to strengthen the bilateral relationship between the two nations.Previously, Embassy in Thailand had waived entry requirements for Chinese tourists until February of the current year, permitting them to stay visa-free for up to 30 days. However, China had not reciprocated this gesture until the recent announcement.Wang Wenbin, the spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, confirmed on Tuesday that discussions are underway to finalize the details of mutually exempting visa requirements for citizens of both countries. Click here to get more information about foreign ministry. 

This agreement holds significant implications for Thailand's tourism sector, which saw nearly 28 million foreign tourists in 2023, slightly surpassing its target. Chinese tourists constituted the second-largest group of visitors to Thailand, with 3.5 million arrivals, following Malaysia. In 2019, China was Thailand's largest inbound market, with 10 million tourists. 


In 2024, Thailand aims to generate tourism revenue amounting to 3.5 trillion baht ($100 billion). Alongside the visa waiver agreement, Thailand also announced plans to streamline the process for foreign tourists to obtain value-added tax refunds on purchases made in the country. The threshold for VAT refunds has been increased significantly, from 5,000 baht ($146) to 20,000 baht ($585), eliminating the requirement for tourists to present goods to customs officials during the refund process for purchases below this threshold. 

China, meanwhile, has been focusing on enhancing inbound tourism by implementing policies aimed at facilitating quality tourism experiences for citizens of various countries. Recently, China introduced a visa-free travel policy for five European nations and Malaysia. Effective from December 1, 2023, to November 30, 2024, this quality tourism initiative allows ordinary passport holders from France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, and Malaysia to stay in China for up to 15 days without a visa. The emphasis on 'quality tourism' reflects China's commitment to providing visitors with enriching and culturally immersive experiences during their stay. 

According to data from the National Immigration Administration, around 214,000 individuals from the aforementioned countries entered China in December 2023, marking a 28.5% increase compared to November. Notably, 55% of these inbound trips were made by ordinary passport holders without a visa, indicating the effectiveness of the visa-free policy in promoting tourism.Furthermore, China has also reached a reciprocal visa-free agreement with Singapore, allowing citizens of both countries to enjoy 30 days of visa-free travel. In a bid to foster international relations, China has extended its efforts to facilitate travel, recently streamlining entry regulations for U.S. citizens visiting on tourist visas. This easing of requirements eliminates the need for evidence such as round-trip air tickets, hotel reservations, itinerary, or an invitation letter. This positive trend in visa regulations is not limited to specific regions, as China continues to explore similar possibilities with eastern European cities, promoting increased accessibility and fostering cultural exchange. 

Overall, the visa waiver agreement between China and Thailand represents a significant milestone in bilateral relations and is expected to bolster tourism and economic ties between the two nations. As both countries continue to prioritize measures aimed at facilitating travel and promoting tourism, it is anticipated that the tourism industry will experience further growth and development in the coming years.


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