Thailand Mulls Visa-Waiver Extension for Another Three Months

Thailand tourism continues to be the bright star not only of the Thai economy but also of the whole ASEAN. With 32.6 million foreign travellers -preliminary figures- welcomed last year, the Kingdom is the largest destination in Southeast Asia, receiving 20% more visitors than Malaysia, the second largest ASEAN destination with 26 million travellers.

According to Yuthasak Supasorn, Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, ” the year 2016 was for Thai tourism a record breaking performance in history both in terms of revenue and number of tourist arrivals. According to the preliminary figures, Thailand received tourism revenue around 1.65 trillion Baht  or around 46 billion US dollars with growth of 13 percent, while the total number of international visitor arrivals of 32.6 million, up by 9 percent over 2015. Thailand’s top 5 destinations for international visitors in the year 2016 were Bangkok, Phuket, Chon Buri, Chiang Mai and Surat Thani. International visitors had an average length of stay of roughly 4 days per person per visit, and their average daily expenditure stood at US$115 per capita” he said.

“In 2017, we hope to reach our goal with the target of 1.81 trillion Baht (50 billion USD) up 10 percent in international tourism receipts and 34.5 million overseas travelers, plus 6 percent over 2016”, he said.

Mr Yuthasak acknowledged that the government’s ban on ‘zero-dollar’ tours for Chinese travellers affected in someways the final results on the year. October, November saw a huge decrease in Chinese total arrivals. “However we already see that this market is bouncing back as we reached the bottom line in December. Measures by the government to encourage Chinese travellers to come back such as waiving fees for the visa are paying off”, added Yuthasak Supasorn. In November, Chinese arrivals were down by over 30%.

General Prayuth government waived at the end of last year visa fees and halved the visa-on-arrival fee to 1,000 baht for tourists from 19 countries from Dec 1, 2016 to Feb 28, 2017.

Mr Supasorn confirmed the news that Thailand Tourism and Sports Ministry will propose to the cabinet next Tuesday to extend these visa incentives for at least another three months in a bid to lure more foreign tourists.

The Tourism Department forecast a 13% drop in Chinese tourists this month, which is still lower than in November, which plunged 30% and was the biggest monthly contraction for Chinese arrivals to Thailand.

According to Thailand Minister of Tourism Kobkarn Wattanavangkul, the visa scheme shows already a positive effect. Foreign tourist arrivals are increasing again. Between January 1 and 20, Thailand welcomed 1.8 million international tourists, up 6% year-on-year.