Thailand is planning to offer visa-free travel to Chinese tourists, China’s Premier Li Leqiang has said.
On a visit to Bangkok, where he met Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and addressed Thai Parliament, Li said visa exemption would provide cheaper, easier travel to millions of Chinese nationals.
The move would build on the recent surge of Chinese visitor numbers to Thailand. China is now Thailand’s largest visitor source market, contributing 2.8 million visitors in 2012. In the first eight months of 2013, this figure has already risen to 3.2m.
Li also visited Chiang Mai, which has become a popular destination for Chinese tourists following the success of the Chinese movie, ‘Lost in Thailand’. And just last week, Air China became the latest Chinese carrier to announce plans to launch direct flights to Chiang Mai. This would give the northern Thai city its first direct connection with Beijing, providing a further boost for bilateral tourism.
According to Xinhua, Thailand is the first Southeast Asian country to discuss visa-free travel with China.
Also during his Thai visit, Li pledged to help the country develop its high-speed rail network. While in Bangkok the Chinese premier opened an event, sponsored by state-owned China Railway Corporation, aimed at showcasing China’s high-speed railway technology.
Thailand is planning to develop several high-speed rail lines, stretching from Bangkok to key cities including Chiang Mai, Pattaya and Nakhon Ratchasima. And while Thailand and China do not share a common border, the development of a broader Southeast Asian high-speed rail network including Laos and Vietnam is intended to significantly reduce overland travel times between the two countries.