IN AN attempt to lessen the blow to tourism that Thailand’s political unrest has had over the last few months, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) will temporarily waive visa fees for Chinese and Taiwanese tourists.
The exemption will be effective from August 1 to October 31. At present, the visa entry fee is 1,000 baht (US$31) for both Chinese and Taiwanese tourists.
Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, told TTG Asia e-Daily that the scheme will accelerate the recovery traffic from China.
“We are already seeing a recovery in the Chinese market but it is still quite slow and hasn’t reached its full potential yet. Although Chinese FITs and businessmen are still visiting Thailand, group tours have been the most affected during this period.”
While Sisdivachr does not expect Chinese inbound figures to pick up immediately, he is confident that the initiative will spur Chinese outbound traffic to Thailand in Q4 since the exemption period coincides with China’s Golden Week from October 1-7.
“When Chinese traffic to Thailand picks up, it is likely to drive inbound figures to Malaysia and Singapore too, especially since Chinese package tours love to combine the three countries together,” he added.
The move has garnered a warm reception from inbound tour operators in the country.
Wacharaporn Phiewkaow, managing director of Discovery Holidays, said: “This exemption will make Thailand package prices cheaper and definitely make it easier for those who are still hesitant to travel to Thailand to decide.
“We expect this to push up our Chinese inbound business by at least 20 per cent, and it’s likely to be more effective in raising tourism revenue than just domestic tourism alone,” she remarked. “It would be even better if visas are entirely waived for Chinese tourists.”
Dependent on the results of the move, NCPO may consider extending the visa fee exemption period, Sisdivachr said.
Arrivals from China and Taiwan to Thailand plunged sharply in 1H2014 due to recent political unrest in the country.
Although Chinese inbound numbers to Thailand suffered a 23.4 per cent year-on-year drop during this period, the market stills makes up 16 per cent or 1.9 million of overall arrivals, according to the Thai Ministry of Tourism and Sports.
Likewise, Taiwanese arrivals fell 32.3 year-on-year to 174,061 during this period.
Thailand waives visa fees for Chinese, Taiwanese tourists