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Thailand and China set to relax visa rules

BANGKOK, 2 August 2013 (NNT) – According to the Foreign Ministry, Thailand and China are planning to relax visa rules to facilitate increased travel between the two countries.

The visa waiver is expected to boost tourism in the region after Japan earlier allowed Thai nationals to travel to the country without visas. The Japanese government has set a goal to increase the number of visitors from Southeast Asia to 2 million in 2016.

The Bank of Thailand has also expressed interest in using Yuan as a trading currency between the two nations in place of US dollar. China has so far agreed with the BOT’s proposal and will set up meetings with representatives from both central banks.

China already has agreements with Russia, Vietnam and Japan allowing trade to be settled in yuan instead of dollars. An HSBC forecast projected that by 2015, the yuan will become one of the three most used currencies in global trade, in league with the dollar and euro.

BANGKOK, 6 August 2013: Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul says Thailand and China are planning to relax visa rules to encourage more travel between the two countries.

The minister met with China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, late last week and visas came up for an airing.

“We will need to continue to discuss visas and how to relax them,” he explained.

The tourism industry would welcome a move to introduce visa-free entry for Chinese visitors, but in the past the Immigration Bureau opposed recommendations claiming there were security issues at stake.

However, UNWTO claims its research shows the presence, or absence, of visa requirements does not appear to have any direct bearing on national security levels.

Japan recently approved visa-free entry for Thai tourists. They get 15-days in the country without having to go through the time consuming visa application process.

The Japanese government has set a goal to increase the number of visitors from Southeast Asia to 2 million in 2016.

Thai-Chinese Tourism Alliance Association president, Kasian Watanachowpisut, told TTR Weekly that waiving the visa requirement for Chinese visitors has been on the table for years.

“The visa waiver scheme between Thailand and China is possible…once it is achieved, it will benefit both countries.”

Considering the size and potential of China’s outbound travel markets, it should enjoy the same visa-free facilities that apply in Europe. Thailand has for decades allowed citizens of the EU visa-free travel.

But that has never been the case for mainland China or even Taiwan. The latter has always been a top travel supplier for Thailand. Taipei was one of the first destinations THAI Airways International served and continues to be a remarkably resilient and productive travel market for Thailand’s tourism and hospitality sectors.

The talks with the Chinese foreign ministry covered much wider issues that just travel visas.

“The Bank of Thailand has also expressed interest in using yuan as a trading currency to reduce the need to use US dollars when dealing with Chinese exporters,” Mr Surapong explained.

“China has so far agreed with the BOT’s request and will set up meetings with representatives from both central banks to work out details,” the minister said.

China already has agreements with Russia, Vietnam and Japan that allows direct trading in yuan rather than US dollars. An HSBC forecast projected that by 2015, the yuan will become one of the three most used currencies in global trade in the same league as the dollar and euro.

China is now the largest source of Thai tourism revenue. Thailand could earn more than Bt1 billion a year in visa fees alone from the more than 2 million Chinese tourists expected to travel to the Kingdom.

This year, Thailand expects to welcome 3 million Chinese tourists increasing from 2.7 million visits last year.

During January to June this year, there were 2,278,493 Chinese travellers Thailand representing an increase of 95.06% from 1,168,094 visits during the same period last year, according to Ministry of Tourism and Sports’ Department of Tourism data. Most of them still travel with tour groups on pre-paid arrangements.

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