The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) hopes travellers from Taiwan and India will be next in line for visa waivers if visa-free entry for mainland Chinese tourists is made permanent, as proposed by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin.
Mr Srettha said that the temporary visa exemption for Chinese travellers, which is scheduled to end on Feb 29, could be made permanent.
He made the comment during the signing of a letter of intent between the TAT and eight Chinese companies on Thursday in Beijing, where he led a Thai delegation attending the Belt and Road Forum this week.
Thai authorities also want to upgrade safety and security measures to revive the Chinese market, he said.
Thapanee Kiatphaibool, the TAT governor, said that while the government considers visa measures for China, the agency is working to create a better impression of Thailand among Chinese visitors. Changing perceptions about unsafe travel, which have been exaggerated in her view, is one of the goals.
She said eight partners would help to create a positive perception, as they include big tech and online players with a combined database of 70-80% of the Chinese population, spanning the finance, travel, entertainment and communication sectors.
The eight companies are HuaweiTechnologies, Trip.com Group, Meituan.com, Spring Airlines, Sina News, Alipay, iQIYI and Jego Trip.
Ms Thapanee said the agency and partner companies would share tourism information and produce positive content to counter fake news about Thailand.
“Our prime minister directed us to aggressively promote trade, investment and tourism,” she said. “The TAT has to accelerate tourism growth and we are considering setting up a sixth office in China in Nanning, a southern city that promotes itself as a springboard to Asean.”
Ms Thapanee said the plan to accelerate growth could include visa waivers for arrivals from Taiwan and India, as well as easing of travel restrictions for Malaysian tourists coming via the land border.
“Of the 3.4 million Malaysians visiting Thailand, about 1 million came via the Sadao border checkpoint,” she said. “Though there is no visa requirement for this market, the queues during the weekends are quite long. We are proposing removing the TM6 immigration form requirement during weekends to ease tourist flows.”
Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, the TAT deputy governor for Asia and the South Pacific, said that if Thailand and China mutually agree to waive visa requirements for visitors, it would help increase seat capacity more quickly between the two markets as airlines would add more flights to serve growing demand.
Business operators in Taiwan have asked Thailand to consider visa exemptions for visitors from the island, and he said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is considering the issue.
Yang Xianghua, president of the movie and overseas business group at iQIYI, said that as the largest streaming platform and original content production business in China, with 900 million monthly active users, the company is keen to use films to help promote tourism by choosing Thailand as a shooting location.
He said the company also plans to produce more Thai-language drama series to broadcast on its platform, which has 30 million monthly active users outside China.
“We have two original series shooting in Thailand now and plan to increase the amount to 10 original series per year,” said Mr Yang.
Bringing more talented Thai artists to feature in Chinese series is one way to connect the two countries, he said.
Yi Zhou, chief financial officer at Ant International, said its payment platform Alipay+ has the largest share in China and has 20 e-wallet partners in Asia, allowing the company to engage users to promote Thai tourism among targeted groups, such as those looking for shopping experiences.
Amanda Wang, vice-president of global destinations for Trip.com Group, said that following the visa exemption, searches for Thai destinations on its platform soared by 800%. The company plans promotional activities to attract more Chinese tourists to Thailand, focusing on the “high-quality segment”, she said.