Thailand is one of the most popular destinations for Chinese tourists, who accounted for nearly 30% of the total international arrivals in 2019. However, since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of Chinese visitors has plummeted, and has not yet recovered to the pre-crisis levels.
New Visa Waiver Program for Chinese Tourists in Thailand
Thailand has recently implemented a visa waiver program for Chinese tourists in an effort to stimulate the economy. From September 25th to February 29th, 2024, Chinese tourists can enter Thailand without the need for a visa. This initiative aims to attract more Chinese visitors and boost the tourism sector, which is a significant contributor to the country’s economy.
Chinese Tourists: A Crucial Source of Revenue
The recovery of the Chinese market is crucial for Thailand’s tourism industry, which contributes about 20% to its GDP and employs millions of people.
Between January and September 10th, 2023, Thailand has received more than 2.2 million tourists from China, making it the second-largest tourism market for Thailand, following Malaysia.
The Thai government had initially projected a total of 3.4 million Chinese visitors for the entire year, which would account for approximately 31% of the total number of visitors in 2019. The implementation of a visa exemption program is expected to contribute to further growth in these numbers and support the country’s economy.
However, despite efforts to attract Chinese tourists, arrivals have fallen short of the government’s target due to concerns over safety : the recent popularity of the Chinese action film “No More Bets” has led to rumors spreading on social media about the dangers of traveling to Thailand.
Thailand’s Plan to Deploy Chinese Police Patrol
Thailand is now considering a plan to station Chinese police officers at popular tourist destinations to increase the confidence of Chinese travelers. The purpose of this initiative is to enhance the appeal for Chinese tourists, as there have been concerns regarding the safety of tourists that have discouraged some Chinese travelers.
A recent Weibo survey showed that 48,000 of 54,000 respondents avoided travelling to Myanmar for security reasons. Another survey found that respondents no longer wanted to travel to Southeast Asia, and more than 85 percent cited security concerns as the main reason they didn’t want to travel, according to Thai daily Krungthep Thuragit.
Earlier this year, a Chinese woman in Pattaya, Thailand, was reportedly abducted while picking up her child from school. The suspects demanded a ransom of 4.7 million baht for her release. Police later said they found the Mitsubishi used in the abduction at Suvarnabhumi airport and arrested a Chinese man aged 29 before he could board a flight to Nanning in southern China.
But the plan has sparked controversy, with critics raising concerns about sovereignty and the potential targeting of Chinese dissidents. In 2016, two Chinese dissidents disappeared from Thai soil, only to reappear a few weeks later in China in police custody. The Thai government argues that the deployment is only meant to combat Chinese mafia groups operating in Thailand and ensure the safety of Chinese tourists.