Visa fee waiver for Chinese proposed as arrivals fade away
Tourism operators have urged the government to waive visa fees for Chinese tourists in a bid to draw them back after arrivals fell following the fatal boat accident in Phuket earlier this month.
The visa fee waiver might be offered for a short period, such as six months, said Vichit Prakobkosol, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents.
The association reported that a number of Chinese tourists have cancelled their plans to visit Phuket and other resort destinations like Krabi, Phangnga and Koh Samui after the dive boat Phoenix capsized and claimed 47 Chinese lives.
"Chinese tourists have cancelled bookings made for July, August and September," Mr Vichit said. "The cancellations have damaged the tourism business in the Andaman coast."
The visa fee exemption should be offered as soon as possible, he said, otherwise Chinese tourists will choose to visit other countries over the next few months.
The visa for a Chinese citizen to visit Thailand costs about 1,000 baht.
Mr Vichit said operators in Phuket, Phangnga and Krabi will soon meet with tourism authorities to seek assistance and restoration plans.
Thai authorities hope the boat tragedy in Phuket will not undermine a plan to lure more Chinese to the kingdom. (Bangkok Post video)
Klissada Ratanapruk, executive director for the southern region at the Tourism Authority of Thailand said the boat tragedy in Phuket has also affected tourism in Koh Samui, a resort island in Surat Thani province.
Tour operators in the island have increased demands for safety services for clients, such as boat inspections, safety equipment and inspection of boat routing plans before clients are taken onto the boat.
The Tourism and Sports Ministry reported that almost 10 million Chinese tourists visited Thailand last year, 3 million of whom visited Phuket. The ministry projected that this year the number would reach 10 million.
In another development, Pongpanu Svetarundra, permanent secretary of the ministry, said that more staff from the Tourist Assistant Centre will be put towards speeding up services at the Tax Refund counters at Suvarnabhumi airport.
From Oct 1, 2017 to April 30, 2018, 690,626 foreign tourists claimed tax refunds at Suvarnabhumi Airport, valued at 31.7 billion baht.