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Thai travel agent organisations welcome visa exemption for Chinese

Written by World Events

Chinese tourists in Thai traditional costume at Wat Arun.

Thai travel agency sector leaders are welcoming the government’s plan to exempt visas for tourists from China, hoping that this will encourage more arrivals during the last quarter of the year and enabling Thailand to reach the target of five million visitors for the whole year.

Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA), said that Chinese travel agents are excited about the prospect that the new Thai government is considering the lifting of visa requirements.

Chinese agents, said Sisdivachr, are confident that the visa free measure will encourage more Chinese to visit Thailand because, currently, obtaining a tourist visa from the Thai Embassy or Thai consular offices takes than it did before the COVID-19 pandemic.

If the visa free measure becomes effective on October 1st, which coincides with the Chinese National Day long holidays, he said that it is expected that Chinese arrivals will rise.

2,227,054 Chinese tourists arrived in Thailand during the first eight months of this year. If the monthly arrivals for the last four months average 700,000 a month, it is likely that the 5-million arrival target can be reached, he said.

He also said that he would like to know whether the government will grant visa exemption for just three months, from October to December, or for six months until next March, which is still within the tourist season and coincides with Chinese New Year, adding that, in the past, as many as 1.2 million Chinese tourists visited Thailand during the Chinese New Year holidays.

He suggested that the Thai government grant the visa exemption for just three months initially and extend the period for another three months if there is a substantial response from the Chinese.

The ATTA president said that of particular concern for many Chinese is safety from the threat posed by Chinese scam and criminal gangs, which have been preying on Chinese tourists.

Charoen Wangananont, president of Thai Travel Agents Association (TTAA), said that he doubts that Chinese tourists will return to Thailand in droves, like they did pre-COVID, due to the economic slowdown in China and travel restrictions imposed by the Chinese government.

Meanwhile, concern has been expressed in some circles outside tourism that visa exemption for Chinese tourists could be a double-edged sword, which may harm the country, despite the anticipated increased revenues from tourism.

Critics worry about the possible a revival of the “Zero Dollar” tours, a phenomenon which occurred many years ago when Thailand was flooded with such Chinese tourists who visited the country on budget packages, arranged by Chinese tour agencies.

Others warned that the measure may open the floodgates to more Chinese “grey business” using Thailand as their base for illegal and criminal activities, such as call centre operations, illegal gambling and money laundering.

About 12.4 million foreign tourists had arrived up to June 25th this year, including about two million Chinese. GDP growth for the second quarter of the year was 1.8%, which is below the 3.1% target.



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