Bangkok, Sep 12 (EFE).- The newly formed Thai government announced on Tuesday that it would grant a visa exemption to Chinese citizens from October onwards in an attempt to revive the struggling tourism sector, which had been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
The initiative is part of an ambitious plan to revive the Thai economy, which slumped in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic’s impact and barely began to recover in 2022, with the growth rate much below the official predictions.
Chinese tourists accounted for nearly one-third of the 40 million tourists that visited Thailand in 2019, but the figures plummeted subsequently due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and continue to remain low even after the restrictions were lifted.
The measures announced by the government – which has put economic revival at the top of its agenda – include handouts of around $280 in a digital wallet to all Thai citizens above the age of 16, and investment in airport infrastructure to increase the frequency of flights.
The economic roadmap was announced by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin after his first meeting with the new cabinet and was welcomed by business leaders of the country.
Srettha himself is a business tycoon who joined politics recently,
The president of the Airlines Association of Thailand, Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth, told local media that the visa-free entry for Chinese tourists would be a big help for the aviation and tourist sector, although he said that it should be implemented before Oct. 1, when the high tourist season begins.
Boosting the tourism sector and reviving the weakened economy are the two key priorities listed by the new government, which assumed office last week after nearly four months of a political deadlock over electing the prime minister.
Thailand, heavily dependent on the tourism industry, saw the number of foreign arrivals drop from nearly 40 million in 2019 to 6.7 million in 2020 and just 428,000 the next year, triggering a general collapse in the sector.
The Southeast Asian nation is relying on the return of Chinese tourists to regain pre-pandemic levels of footfall, as travelers from China contribute to around 20 percent of tourist spending in the country. EFE