Thai and China on Sunday signed a reciprocal visa-waiver agreement intended to boost tourism between the two countries once it takes effect in March.
Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi inked the agreement at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok.
The "Agreement between the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand and the Government of the People's Republic of China on Mutual Visa Exemption for Holders of Ordinary Passports and Passports for Public Affairs" is effective from March 1.
Mr Wang is making an official visit to Thailand, from Friday to Monday.
Under the agreement, holders of valid, ordinary Thai passports and Chinese holders of passports for public affairs and ordinary passports will be exempted from visa requirements for entering, exiting or transiting the other country for up to 30 days. Cumulative stays must not exceed 90 days in any 180-day period, except for the purposes of residing or engaging in employment, study, media activities or other activities that require prior official approval.
"This agreement is a symbol of our long-lasting friendship, trust and confidence, which is evidenced at every level," Mr Parnpree said. "I am certain that travel between our two peoples, whether for tourism or business, will become more convenient, and help stimulate the tourism industry in both countries."
Mr Wang was also effusive. "From March 1, our two countries will officially enter a visa-free era. This will surely bring our people-to-people exchanges to a new height. There will be a big increase in the number of Chinese tourists visiting Thailand," he said.
The Ministry of Tourism and Sports expects the reciprocal visa-free scheme will attract about 8 million Chinese visitors this year, and generate about 320 billion baht in revenue from their spending.
Chinese tourists were the country's largest group of visitors before the pandemic and are seen as key to a sustained recovery of the tourism industry, a main driver of economic growth.
Travellers from mainland China made up about 27% of the 40 million foreign visitors in 2019, but only 3.5 million of the 28 million tourists last year. Malaysia was the largest visitor market, at 4.4 million.
The government is targeting 35 million foreign arrivals this year.