200 more immigration officers to help over Chinese New Year

Busy times ahead for tourism as Thailand-China visa deal takes effect in March

200 more immigration officers to help over Chinese New Year
Tourism and Sports Minister Sudawan Wangsuphakijkosol presents a dragon doll to a commuter at the Phrom Phong BTS station in Bangkok on Friday after opening a Chinese New Year event. Han Zhiqiang, China’s ambassador to Thailand, also took part. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)

The Immigration Bureau is planning to recruit 200 additional officers to help speed up services at international airports ahead of an expected influx of Chinese tourists this month.

Thailand since November has been offering visa exemptions to Chinese visitors on a trial basis. As a result, the number of Chinese nationals arriving in the country jumped by 34% in December and 23% in January, noted Pol Maj Gen Siriwat Deepho, deputy spokesman for the Royal Thai Police.

Thailand and China last weekend signed a mutual visa exemption agreement that will take effect on March 1, which is expected to further spur tourism. 

Last year, a total of 3.7 million Chinese tourists entered the kingdom and this year authorities are forecasting an increase to about 8 million.

Pol Maj Gen Siriwat expects an increase in Chinese tourists this month to celebrate Chinese New Year, which takes place on Feb 10.

The Immigration Bureau will recruit 200 more officers this month to ease the workload and speed up the immigration process, especially at arrival halls at international airports, he said.

Volunteers will also help immigration police, and checkpoints will be increased, he said. Technology including bodycams and drones will be used to improve safety, he added.

Safety protocols will be stepped up in popular areas, including Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya and Phuket, Pol Maj Gen Siriwat said.

Radklao Inthawong Suwankirim, a deputy government spokesperson, said more than 28 million tourists entered the country last year, making it the most visited country in Asean.

She said a new “One Destination” scheme — a collaborative policy proposed by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin during a recent Asean meeting — would allow tourists to travel to any country in the region, adding more economic value and spurring tourism.