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China and Thailand Make Visa Waiver Permanent, Impact on Indian Tourism

In a major development, Thailand and China have come together to boost tourism by permanently waiving visa requirements for each other's citizens. This agreement, set to take effect from March, was announced by Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who emphasized the mutual benefits it would bring to both nations.

China and Thailand Make Visa Waiver Permanent

This move follows Thailand's successful initiative in September to waive visas for Chinese nationals, a decision that saw a significant increase in Chinese tourists visiting the country. Within just two days of the initial waiver, more than 22,000 Chinese visitors entered Thailand, signaling the positive impact of the measure. Prime Minister Srettha expressed excitement about welcoming tourists from both countries and highlighted Thailand's readiness to open its doors for visitors.

Describing the visa waiver as an 'upgrade' to Thailand-China relations, Prime Minister Srettha also emphasized the positive impact on the significance of Thai passports. Currently, Chinese tourists rank as the second-largest group of foreign visitors to Thailand, following Malaysians.

Despite the optimistic outlook, Thailand's tourism industry faces challenges such as a shortage of low-cost flights post-COVID-19 and a slowing Chinese economy. Safety concerns have also arisen due to rumors of tourists being kidnapped and sent to work in scam centers in neighboring countries.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand set a target of attracting up to 3.5 million Chinese visitors in 2023, falling short of its 4 million-target. However, this goal represents a significant improvement from the meager 270,000 Chinese tourists received in 2022. Looking ahead, the authority ambitiously targets 8.2 million Chinese tourists for 2024.

China, too, has been actively waiving visa requirements to attract tourists. In November, the country announced a visa-free trial for visitors from several European countries and Malaysia, aiming to encourage international travel until the end of November this year.

While the reciprocal visa waivers between Thailand and China align with a global trend of nations using such measures to boost tourism and diplomatic ties, there could be potential challenges for the Indian tourism industry. If the visa waiver stimulates tourism in Thailand and China at the expense of other destinations, including India, it might require Indian authorities to reassess strategies to attract and retain international tourists.

Given India's regional ties with both China and Thailand, the visa waiver is expected to foster increased tourism between these two countries, potentially leading to regional economic growth and collaboration. However, India may face challenges in maintaining or increasing its share of international tourists within the region.

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