Feature: "Visa-free era" brings closer exchanges between China, Thailand

Updated: March 1, 2024 Source: Xinhua News Agency
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BANGKOK, March 1 (Xinhua) -- Adisorn Sangkrajang arrived early at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport on Thursday evening for his flight bound for Shanghai.

He has been long looking forward to his first trip to China, and when the plane touched down early Friday morning, he became one of the first to benefit from the "visa-free era" between Thailand and China that takes effect on March 1.

"I'm thrilled about my first trip to China, and the visa exemption is incredibly convenient," said the 42-year-old company employee, who is traveling with 11 other colleagues. "We had planned to visit China and the visa exemption made the decision easy."

"China is a country with a rich culture, which I've always longed to experience. This is my first visit, but I might return for a second or third time," he told Xinhua.

In late January, China and Thailand signed an agreement on mutual visa exemption and to be effective on March 1. Since then, the booking of tours to China has increased significantly, said Thai tour operator Kavisara Charoenporn, who organized a chartered flight that departed Friday to Zhangjiajie, a picturesque tourist spot in central China.

The chartered flights from Bangkok to Zhangjiajie have increased from two to three times a week beginning in March, said Kavisara.

"This will be my second trip to Zhangjiajie," said Bunsuk Withanwattana, one of the tourists, "I have been there before and enjoyed the beautiful scenery and pleasant climate. Now we don't need to apply for a visa, we can save cost and time, so I decided to go again."

Even before the agreement came into effect on Friday, Chinese tourists have enjoyed a temporary visa exemption implemented by the Thai government since last September. The signing of the agreement became another boost.

During the recent Chinese New Year holiday, many Chinese flied to Thailand to immerse themselves in the cultural and historical heritages in Bangkok and Ayutthaya as well as breathtaking tropical landscapes in Phuket and Samui.

China regained its position as the top source market for foreign tourists to Thailand so far this year, with more than 1.1 million arrivals as of Feb. 25, out of the nearly 6 million foreign visitors received by Thailand, according to Tourism and Sports Minister Sudawan Wangsuphakijkosol.

The number is expected to continue the upward trend with visa waivers taking effect and the increasing number of flights to Thailand offered by several airlines, said the minister.

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has hailed the visa exemption agreement as a milestone for the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

"This is an important step in Thailand-China relations and will have a great impact on stimulating the Thai economy, not just in terms of trade or investment. Mutual tourism will greatly improve income from tourists, which is sent directly to merchants in Thailand," he said on social media on the day of the signing.

Surasit Thanadtang, director of the Thai-Chinese Strategic Research Center in Bangkok, said the "visa-free era" will bring the relationship between Thailand and China even closer.

"It would facilitate the flow of people between the two countries and usher the people-to-people exchanges to a new height. It would also further strengthen the friendship and mutual trust between Thailand and China, hence contribute to the peace in the region," he said.

Editor: Yang Linlin