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Thailand’s Tourism Boost: Eased Visa Rules And Extended Stays To Drive Revenue Surge By 2024

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(CTN NEWS) – Thailand is poised to ease its visa regulations for travelers from China and India, while also extending the duration of stays for visitors from all across the globe.

This initiative comes as the newly appointed Prime Minister, Srettha Thavisin, explores avenues to enhance tourism revenue, aiming to reach almost $100 billion by 2024.

Prior to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, Chinese tourists constituted the largest visitor demographic. However, the cumbersome and expensive visa application process they faced has been a significant hindrance to tourism figures in 2023, as noted by the Prime Minister.

Initiatives to Enhance Tourism: Extended Stays and Streamlined Processes

Meanwhile, Indian travelers currently pay a fee of 2,000 baht (equivalent to $77) for a 15-day visa upon their arrival.

Mr. Srettha has expressed his intention to expand the list of countries eligible for visa exemption and to prolong the permissible length of stays for most international travelers. This entails considering extensions to 15 or 30 days for a majority of nationalities.

In a meeting on Monday with executives from Airports of Thailand and various airlines, discussions revolved around strategies to attract a higher number of foreign visitors, particularly during the fourth quarter, which traditionally marks the peak of the tourism season.

As part of these discussions, the airport authority has committed to mitigating bottlenecks in order to increase flight capacity by 20 percent.

Furthermore, efforts to expedite the immigration clearance process were also explored, as confirmed by Mr. Srettha on the platform now known as X (formerly Twitter).

The novel administration’s objective is to raise revenue generated from international tourists to a substantial 3.3 trillion baht by 2024. Mr. Srettha emphasized that the travel industry presents the most effective short-term stimulus for the country’s economy.

Significant Role of Tourism in Thailand’s Economy and Strategies for Revival

Tourism constitutes approximately 12 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and supports nearly one-fifth of all jobs, as indicated by data from the Bank of Thailand.

According to Mr. Thaneth Tantipiriyakij, President of the Phuket Tourism Association, eliminating the visa application fee would be a more preferable strategy compared to providing visa exemptions for visitors from China and India.

This sentiment was conveyed to the Prime Minister during a weekend meeting held in the island province, attended by leaders from the travel sector.

Mr. Thaneth emphasized that granting visa fee exemptions would yield swift positive outcomes for the tourism sector. He noted that international arrivals to Phuket had reached around 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels by the end of July.

However, the recovery rate for Chinese arrivals was only at 30 percent.

On a national scale, foreign tourist arrivals are projected to reach approximately 30 million in 2023, a nearly threefold increase from the 11.2 million recorded in 2022, according to Nomura Holdings.

As of Tuesday, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports reported that arrivals had already surpassed 17.5 million.

Despite China being the largest source of travelers in July, with almost 420,000 arrivals, the return of Chinese tourists has been slower than anticipated.

Challenges in Chinese Tourist Arrivals to Thailand and Proposed Mitigation Strategies

In 2019, before the pandemic, Chinese visitors accounted for about 28 percent of the record-breaking 40 million foreign arrivals in Thailand, generating revenue of around 1.9 trillion baht.

The delay in Chinese arrivals can be attributed in part to the stringent e-visa requirements introduced in May, particularly for group travelers, as highlighted by analysts at Nomura, including Mr. Euben Paracuelles, in a report published on Monday.

Another contributing factor is Thailand’s reliance on tourists from lower-tier Chinese cities, which might be more susceptible to China’s worsening economic conditions.

To offset these challenges, Mr. Thaneth’s association has proposed increasing flights to Phuket and Krabi provinces, as well as extending visa durations for tourists from Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia – groups that typically spend more compared to those from China and Malaysia.

While Mr. Srettha’s strategies could offer incremental benefits, the broader concern pertains to demand-side factors.

As Mr. Paracuelles highlighted in a separate email, if China’s economic prospects deteriorate further and consumer confidence weakens, there is a risk that these supply-side efforts to attract tourists might prove less effective.

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Alishba Waris is an independent journalist working for CTN News. She brings a wealth of experience and a keen eye for detail to her reporting. With a knack for uncovering the truth, Waris isn't afraid to ask tough questions and hold those in power accountable. Her writing is clear, concise, and cuts through the noise, delivering the facts readers need to stay informed. Waris's dedication to ethical journalism shines through in her hard-hitting yet fair coverage of important issues.

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