Visa exemptions for Chinese, Indians to be submitted to cabinet

Visa exemptions for Chinese, Indians to be submitted to cabinet

Chinese tourists could enjoy a visa-free programme to boost tourism if the scheme is approved by the government. (Bangkok Post photo)
Chinese tourists could enjoy a visa-free programme to boost tourism if the scheme is approved by the government. (Bangkok Post photo)

The Tourism and Sports Ministry plans to seek the cabinet’s approval for a scheme to offer visa exemptions to visitors from China and India for one year.

If the idea is approved, it will become effective from the start of November through Oct 31, 2020, said Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn.

"Free visas is the ministry's must urgent stimulus policy, without which tourism arrival growth might not reach our target," Mr Phiphat said.

The visa exemption will allow travel in Thailand for 15 days.

Tourism, a key economic engine, has been weakened because of the slow global economy. The ministry reports 19.76 million tourists visited Thailand in the first half, a rise of just 1.48% from the same period of 2018.

The number of visitors from China, Thailand’s biggest tourism source market, declined by 4.73% over the period to 5.65 million.

VIsitor numbers from India, however, soared to 978,785 -- up 24.1% year-on-year.

Mr Phiphat said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha agrees with the scheme and believes visa exemptions are more efficient in boosting tourism than extending the waiver of visa-on-arrival (VOA) fees for these two countries.

China and India are among 21 nations that benefited from the 2,000-baht VOA fee waiver. Mr Phiphat said the ministry will also propose extending the waiver for the other 19 nations until Oct 31, 2020, one more year than previously scheduled.

He also said the VOA fees that Thailand has waived for 21 nations cost around 10 billion baht but the sector has produced overall tourism income of around 20 billion baht since the policy was implemented last November.

The minister is also confident the visa exemption will help boost the number of travellers from India to reach some 3 million next year.

Tourism operators have welcomed the move and hope the measure will help stimulate overall tourism revenue to reach 3.38 trillion baht as targeted this year.

Vichit Prakobgosol, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta), said the visa exemption will bolster the number of inbound Indians and Chinese to Thailand and will be a significant boost in tough economic conditions.

India is a promising market, with growth of more than 24% in the first half this year, he said. The Indian market has been supported by political and economic stability following the result of the general election in May, and economic growth in India is expected to be at least 7% this year.

Mr Vichit said the outlook will be on the upward trend for 5-10 years.

Atta projects the number of Indian travellers will reach 2 million for the first time this year, up from 1.6 million in 2018.

“The hassle-free entry will catalyse growth of the India market. The biggest group of travellers is the middle-income segment, hence money that was saved from visa fees will also help them prioritise Thailand more," said Mr Vichit.

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