Visa exemption triggers travel searches

SINGAPORE, 31 January 2024: Group’s latest data shows Thailand-related searches increased seven-fold following the 28 January announcement confirming China and Thailand have signed off on a mutual visa waiver agreement for citizens of the two countries.

The visa exemption for both Thais and Chinese travelling between the two countries goes live on 1 March. 

The global online travel agency headquartered in Shanghai noted that the “search popularity of Thailand-related keywords” on its Chinese platform increased more than seven times month-on-month.

Searches for air tickets and hotels increased by more than six times month-on-month, with residents from Shanghai, Beijing, Guangdong, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Sichuan, and Shandong making more Thailand-related searches.

Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui and Pattaya are the most searched destinations for Chinese planning trips to Thailand.

On’s Thailand platform, the search popularity of China-related keywords increased by more than four times compared with the previous day. Shanghai, Chengdu, Harbin, Shenzhen, Beijing, Tianjin, Chongqing, and Zhangjiajie are among the cities generating the most searches by Thais considering a trip to China.  

The new visa exemption policy between China and Thailand, starting on 1 March 2024, should significantly impact both countries, beginning with a boost in tourist arrivals in both directions.

It certainly gives Thailand a fighting chance to lift tourist visits from China from 3.5 million recorded in 2023 to within striking distance of the 8.2 million forecast by the Thailand Authority of Thailand. But there are optimists, mainly in the  Ministry of Tourism and Sports, who hope 2024 could deliver 10 million Chinese tourists, which would be close to arrivals recorded in 2018 but still well short of the 12 million arrivals in 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Economic growth
The influx of tourists will directly contribute to economic growth in both countries. Hotels, restaurants, airlines, and other tourism-related businesses will see increased demand and revenue.

Shifting travel patterns 
With easier travel, tourists from both countries might engage in shorter, more frequent trips instead of longer vacations. This could spread economic benefits more evenly throughout the year.

There are also potential challenges

Infrastructure strain 
Increased tourist arrivals will pressure Thailand’s infrastructure, such as transportation and accommodation. Careful planning and investment will be needed to ensure a smooth experience for visitors.

Environmental impact
More tourism also means greater environmental impact. Both countries must ensure sustainable tourism practices are followed to protect their natural resources.

Social and cultural tensions
Increased interaction between citizens of different cultures can sometimes lead to misunderstandings and conflicts. Communication and intercultural awareness programmes are essential to bridge these gaps.

Overall, the China-Thailand visa exemption is viewed as a positive development in the travel industry, potentially benefiting both countries. However, managing the anticipated growth and addressing potential challenges is essential to ensure a sustainable and positive outcome.


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