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Thailand Welcomes Half a Million Chinese Arrivals in February
04 March 2024 | Written by Chris Alexander

When the Chinese New Year holidays began on 10 February, it quickly became clear that this would be a year to remember, as Thailand emerged as one of the top destinations to host the annual celebrations. A major boom in Chinese arrivals over the past month has provided a fillip for the kingdom’s tourism sector, which experts have attributed in part to the recent relaxation in visa requirements. 

Back in September, Thailand’s Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin announced a temporary visa waiver for Chinese tourists, which shortly thereafter was extended to become a permanent arrangement when Thailand and China signed an indefinite reciprocal visa exemption deal. This latest agreement comes into effect on 1 March 2024.  

“It’s very exciting (to have a) successful Chinese New Year,” says Nithee Seeprae, who is the deputy governor of marketing at Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), “and it is a positive sign for the new visa waiver between China and Thailand because it brings more confidence for the Chinese tourists,” he added.  

Seeprae also confirmed that Thailand has been welcoming around 28,000 Chinese tourists a day since 1 February. “It is almost back to normal before Covid,” he noted. To put the latest figures in perspective, around 7,000 Chinese visitors came to Thailand in February 2023. This February it was closer to 500,000. 

The numbers in February have been promising, and tourism experts believe they offer a bellwether of even better times ahead. “Destinations in Southeast Asia traditionally rely on a strong Lunar New Year holiday to kick-start the tourism calendar,” observed Gary Bowerman, a tourism analyst in Kuala Lumpur, quoted in a recent article published by Al Jazeera. 

He also added that “Thailand has positioned itself astutely to capture outbound travel demand from China with its bilateral visa waiver and aggressive marketing into the Chinese market led by the prime minister. This resonates well with Chinese tourists and has encouraged Chinese airlines to add more capacity over the Chinese New Year.” With new flights up and running, and a reciprocal visa waiver in place, Thailand is hoping for more of the same in the months ahead. 

Starting from 1 March, China and Thailand will implement a visa-free entry policy for their citizens, which permits stays of up to 30 days. The agreement, signed in Bangkong, replaces Thailand’s temporary visa waiver for Chinese travellers, which originally ran up until 29 February. Thailand’s aim is to attract 8 million Chinese visitors this year, which would surpass the 3.5 million recorded last year and edge closer to the pre-pandemic figure of 11 million.