Visa-exemption policy anticipated to revive Thailand's tourism industry hinh anh 1Tourists pose for a picture on Mai Khao Beach in Phuket as a plane lands at Phuket International Airport (Photo: AFP/VNA)

Bangkok (VNA) – Thai officials and businesses expect that the visa exemption agreement between China and Thailand, which took effect on March 1, will boost post-COVID-19 recovery of the tourism industry - one of its key economic sectors.

Chairat Trairattanacharatporn, former chairman of the Tourism Council of Thailand, who runs a resort in Baan Pe in Rayong province on Thailand’s Eastern coast, said the agreement offers convenience to both Chinese and Thai travelers, adding that his resort business is benefiting greatly from the rising number of Chinese and European tourists.

According to Sarapee, the owner of View Point Travel Agency Service in Koh Tao, in Thailand’s southern Surat Thani province, a rising number of Thai travelers were booking air tickets with her for visiting China following the new visa waiver policy.

The large numbers of foreign tourists visiting Koh Tao has given the local economy a big boost, she said.

However, a marketing staffer at Unithai Travel Co said that sale of tour packages for China was stable, and there had been no visible surge in demand as a result of the agreement.

Sisdivalchr Cheewarattanapor, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, revealed that many Chinese tour operators had organised road shows in Thailand, suggesting that they were excited about the visa-free agreement and wanted to woo Thai travelers. 

He expects the agreement to boost two-way tourism in the future, adding that about 20,000 Chinese tourists visit Thailand daily, up from 6,000-7,000 previously.

Sisdivalchr believes that if the Thai Government can succeed in reaching a similar agreement with European countries, it will bring about great benefit to Thai passport holders while expanding the potential of the country's tourism industry.

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said recently that the government was negotiating with European governments for a visa-free agreement.

The Southeast Asian nation aims to lure 40 million foreign tourists this year and the government has announced year-round activities and festivals to draw more tourists.

Chinese tourists accounted for more than 25% of the nearly 40 million tourists who visited Thailand in 2019 with around 11 million, but the numbers plunged as the world shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The number of Chinese tourists reached 3.5 million last year, representing 12.4% of a total 28.2 million foreign arrivals to Thailand, only around 30% of the pre-pandemic numbers, according to the ministry./.

Thailand currently offers visa waivers to tourists from 61 countries and territories in total while Thai passport holders can visit 34 countries and territories without visa requirement./.