Thai Chamber of Commerce seeks visa amnesty for tourists
The Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC) has urged the government to extend the visa amnesty for 400,000 tourists here, while operators in Chiang Mai said more than 10,000 international tourists are helping to generate revenue in the province while borders remain closed.
TCC chairman Kalin Sarasin said the chamber has repeatedly demanded that the Immigration Bureau consider automatically extending the deadline for foreigners in Thailand for 90 days after the amnesty expires today, but the proposal was neglected.
"The TCC has raised this issue on three occasions, including at a meeting with the prime minister and the Interior Ministry recently," Mr Kalin said. "We were told that this agenda was in the process, but there's been no progress so far as the deadline approaches."
He said the deadline will bring chaos to those residing in Thailand now, as commercial flights are not fully allowed in the country.
Instead of blacklisting those foreigners, the government should accommodate them with a more flexible period, particularly when the country cannot reopen for inbound tourists, Mr Kalin said.
He contrasted the reaction from the government regarding the visa amnesty with the effort to promote Thai tourism to foreigners temporarily living here as a means to generate domestic revenue.
"The uncompromising stance towards visa extension scares tourists away despite the fact that they help drive the local economy in these tough times," Mr Kalin said.
Anantorn Hochindarat, president of the Tourism Association of Chiang Mai, said local operators have received revenue from international tourists who remained in Thailand during the past six months.
Some 70% were from China, while others were from Japan and Europe.
Mr Anantorn said some were forced to stay because of technical problems, while others stayed voluntarily because of their confidence in Thailand's health and safety standards.
The revenue from this group benefits hotels, rented homes and condominiums, as the tourists need long-term accommodation.
"Our inbound revenue was zero from March, but some of us can manage to have recurring revenue from those foreigners," Mr Anantorn said. "Although not as much as normal tourists, it can help us a lot when facing difficult times."