Thailand to expand visa-free access, says Srettha

Thailand to expand visa-free access, says Srettha

Inbound passengers arrive at Suvarnabhumi airport, Samut Prakan province, during Lunar New Year 2024. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)
Inbound passengers arrive at Suvarnabhumi airport, Samut Prakan province, during Lunar New Year 2024. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)

The government plans to offer visa-free travel to citizens of several more countries, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said on Friday.

Thailand has recently waived visas for citizens of China and India to boost tourism, a key driver of Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Srettha and David Hurley, the Governor-General of Australia, had a meeting at Government House and agreed with a proposal to consider the possibility of introducing a mutual visa exemption scheme to facilitate travel and business activity between the people of both nations.

Mr Srettha said on Monday that his government is also hoping for visa-free travel agreements with the Schengen-visa states of Europe.

Last year, Thailand drew about 28 million foreign tourists and 1.2 trillion baht in revenue, well short of the record of almost 40 million arrivals and 1.9 trillion baht in revenue in 2019 or before the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Ministry of Tourism and Sports.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) said Malaysians made up the largest group of visitors to Thailand, with around 4.5 million visitors last year while Chinese tourists formed the second-largest group with about 3.51 million visitors.

But as of Feb 1, Chinese travellers tallied more than 533,000 this year, followed by arrivals from Malaysia at more than 337,000 and South Korea at more than 229,000.

The Chinese comprised the biggest group of visitors in pre-pandemic 2019, with about 11 million.

The Tourism and Sports Ministry is confident the country can attract 35 million foreign visitors this year after 3 million arrived in January.

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