Thailand will sign a permanent bilateral visa waiver agreement with Kazakhstan next week, as the Southeast Asian country looks to lift foreign tourist arrivals back to pre-Covid levels.

Thailand, Kazakhstan agree on visa waiver deal to boost tourism (Photo by Amaury PAUL / AFP)

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s cabinet approved the visa exemption on Thursday, which will be signed during Kazakhstan Foreign Minister Murat Nurtleu’s visit to Bangkok on April 23, Thai government spokesman Chai Wacharonke told reporters on Thursday.

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Under the policy, travellers from Kazakhstan will be able to stay in Thailand without a visa for a maximum of 30 days at a time and a maximum of 90 days within any 180-day period, Chai said. Thai travelers to Kazakhstan will need to adhere to the same rules, he said.

The program will take effect 30 days after confirmation that internal procedures in the respective countries have been finalized to enforce the agreement, according to Chai.

Thailand has benefited from an increase in Kazakhstani tourist arrivals since the country rolled out a temporary visa waiver program that started in September and was extended through to August, according to Chai.

Thailand has seen a more than 40% jump in foreign tourist arrivals this year to about 11 million, as its visa waiver programs and easier travel rules draw travelers from across the world. Chinese tourists topped the list with about 2 million visitors, followed by travelers from Malaysia, Russia, South Korea and India, according to the Ministry of Tourism and Sports.

Thailand’s vital tourism industry accounts for 12% of the country’s gross domestic product. This year, the country aims to welcome 35 to 40 million foreign tourists, close to the pre-pandemic record of 40 million visitors in 2019.

The government aims to net 1.8 trillion baht ($49 billion) in revenue from foreign tourists this year. The earnings totaled 518 billion baht between Jan. 1 and April 14, official preliminary data showed this week.

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