The number of Chinese visitors to Thailand in the first nine months of 2013 more than doubled year on year, making it the second-biggest tourist destination country for Chinese, latest data has showed.
Over 3.24 million journeys were made from China to Thailand, up 107.7 percent year on year, according to Xinhua news agency.
In Jan.-March, a period containing China’s Spring Festival holiday, the number of Chinese visitors to Thailand was 93 percent more than in the same period of 2012. Experts predicted the figure will surpass four million by the end of this year.
“If the two countries can simplify visa procedures in the near future, we will see another surge in tourism,” said Shao Qiwei, director of the China National Tourism Administration.
Chinese tourists are choosing Thailand because of its low prices, proximity to China, easy visa procedure and more airline choices, added Guo Dongjie, vice president of Ctrip, China’s biggest online tour operator.
Visa waiver failed to materialize sor far
The much-anticipated reciprocal tourist-visa waiver between China and Thailand is unlikely to materialize anytime soon despite the wishes of tourism-business operators in both countries, a Thai minister said on Friday.
At a press conference for Thai media on the sidelines of the 15th China International Travel Mart (CITM) held here, Thai Tourism and Sports Minister Somsak Pureesrisak said the kingdom would need some time to strengthen security measures and develop infrastructure to serve the jump in visitor numbers that a waiver would bring.
“The government is afraid that if the visa waiver for the Chinese is done without preparation, it could create problems and inconvenience for travelers, in particular those from China, which is already the biggest source of foreign visitors to Thailand,” he said. Thus, a visa waiver is not on the cards in the short term.
Despite the support for the idea among tourism-business operators, Somsak said tourism infrastructure will need to be developed first, ranging from the capacity of airports and accommodations to the availability of cruise services and the provision of safety measures. Chinese-language signs are also necessary to inform travelers of locations and directions. Personnel working in the industry should also be prepared to serve the higher number of Chinese and other foreign visitors.
He did not give a specific date as to when Thailand would be ready for the waiver. He noted that for now, Thailand can facilitate Chinese visitors through the issuance of multiple-entry visas. According to Somsak, the Foreign Affairs Ministry plans to speed up development of an electronic visa-issuance system so that Chinese people will be able to visit more conveniently.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said during his visit to Thailand earlier this month that China is willing to hold talks on bilateral visa exemptions for tourists.
He said visa waiver would offer Chinese and Thai tourists more convenience and promote more people-to-people exchanges.
China is now the biggest source of tourists to Thailand, with about 3.7 million Chinese visiting in the first nine months of 2013, up 90 percent over the same period of 2012, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand. This year, the number is expected to be 4 million.