On Monday, Chinese tourists arriving in Bangkok were personally welcomed by the Thai prime minister as part of a new visa-free initiative aimed at revitalizing the country’s crucial tourism sector. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, accompanied by traditional dancers, warmly greeted visitors from Shanghai at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, even distributing welcome gifts.
One visitor, Zhuang Pan, aged 31, expressed her surprise and joy at the reception, describing it as an excellent beginning to her trip. Jin Li, who was on her honeymoon, shared her enthusiasm for the scheme and managed to capture a photograph with Prime Minister Srettha. She mentioned that the new visa-free policy allowed her to travel without worrying, as all she needed to do was book a ticket.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Chinese tourists constituted the largest group of visitors to Thailand, and tourism accounted for approximately 20 percent of the country’s GDP. However, the tourism sector suffered greatly due to travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic, and its recovery has been slow, influenced by global economic challenges and safety concerns stemming from a popular Chinese thriller about a man being abducted and forced to work in a Southeast Asian online scam operation.
One visitor, Zheng Zhengzhou, aged 36, acknowledged his awareness of the safety concerns associated with Thailand, referencing the movie “No More Bets” that had unnerved many tourists. He admitted to having some safety-related concerns but still chose to visit Thailand.
Prime Minister Srettha has consistently emphasized the importance of tourist safety, highlighting that the security of visitors from the moment they set foot in Thailand until their departure is a top priority.
Chinese visitors were not only greeted by traditional dancers but also by tourism police officers who provided information about a 24-hour police hotline.
The visa-free program was launched in time for China’s “Golden Week” holiday season in October and is set to run until February 29. Srettha reported that bookings had already increased tenfold under the program, expressing confidence that it would significantly boost the economy. He concluded by stating that it marked a positive day for Thailand, and he hoped that other policies would continue to stimulate the economy.