Tighter visa rules stymie Chinese groups

Tighter visa rules stymie Chinese groups

More than 750,000 Chinese visitors have arrived in Thailand this year after Beijing scrapped its Covid-19 rules and restrictions.
More than 750,000 Chinese visitors have arrived in Thailand this year after Beijing scrapped its Covid-19 rules and restrictions.

Inbound tourism operators for the Chinese market are calling for clarification of new rules for visa applications via tour groups, warning that Thailand may lose a lucrative segment including large business travel groups to competitors.

Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, said operators want clear answers on the new visa procedures because they could hamper travel activities for tour groups and large meetings and incentive groups that consist of hundreds or thousands of applicants.

From May 8, the Thai Consular Office in China will require every visitor to apply for an individual visa instead of a group application even if they travel under the escort of a tour group.

The number of applicants per travel agent is also limited.

Further requirements were added with the new measure, including presenting a hotel reservation document and a financial document showing at least 10,000 yuan.

Moreover, some agents are limited to reserving visa applications only three days per week, either Monday-Wednesday-Friday or Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday, with only 20-30 applicants per round, which differs from the past when there were no limits.

The consular office also requires travel agents to present a certified document allowing foreign visa applications and a "yellow card" issued by the Chinese government, which needs to be renewed within a year or two.

However, most Chinese agents' cards expired during the pandemic and they couldn't renew them because of the slow process resulting from a lack of officers.

Many visitors can apply for a visa on arrival at the airport, but that could lead to congestion at immigration counters as they queue up with independent tourists, he said.

Mr Sisdivachr said many large meetings and incentives groups are worried that such inconvenience might cause travellers to change their plans to Vietnam, Hong Kong or Macau if Thai authorities do not urgently deal with this issue.

He said this is definitely an obstacle to securing the government target of 5 million Chinese visitors this year.

Regarding tourism services, Mr Sisdivachr said many Chinese tourists reported being overcharged by taxis. If they weren't willing to pay, they said drivers would drop them before reaching the destination.

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