They were some hesitation to offer free visa on arrivals to travellers, the Ministry of Tourism believing that it would not be the most efficient measure to stimulate markets, especially the sagging Chinese one. But finally, the government announced this last Tuesday to provide free visa on arrivals to 21 countries until the end of January and hope to give the tourism industry a boost.
Government spokesman Buddhipongse Punnakanta announced to Thai media that the Prayut government agreed cabinet agreed to waive the THB 2,000 (US$60) fee for the visa from December 1 to January 31, 2019. The exemption will be only valid for travellers who will stay in Thailand up to 15 days.
The 21 countries which are under the temporary scheme are Andorra, Bulgaria, Bhutan, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, India, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan, said the government spokesman.
“According to the Immigration Bureau, the number of tourists seeking visas on arrival from January 2016 to the present has kept on falling, prompting the government to come up with the measure.
“The waiver of the visa-on-arrival fees will stimulate the tourism sector, drawing more foreign visitors to the country and generating more income. The number of tourists will increase by at least 30%,” declared Mr Buddhipongse to Thai media.
Earlier, Pol Maj Gen Surachate Hakparn, acting chief of the Immigration Bureau, said the waiver was to be put to the cabinet for approval on Tuesday.
He brushed aside concerns the waiver would result in revenue losses, saying the measure would stimulate tourism and generate income for the country.
The Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking earlier pointed to the fall in the number of Chinese tourist arrivals, attributing it to a loss of confidence in Thailand, the weakening of the renminbi and reduced purchasing power as a result of the Sino-US trade war.
In September, 648,000 Chinese visited Thailand, down 14.89% on-year and down 11.77% since August.
In the first nine months of this year, there were 28.54 million foreign visitors, up 8.7% on-year. Chinese arrivals grew 13.3% in the same period but dropped 8.8% in the third quarter. More measures and additional promotion has been also launched by the Tourism Authority of Thailand to stimulate the Chinese inbound market to the Kingdom.