Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin is eyeing holidaymakers from India to boost tourism days after the nation unveiled visa waivers for travellers from China and Kazakhstan starting next week.
Mr Srettha said he plans to make a trip to India this year to meet his counterpart Narendra Modi and discuss increasing flight frequency between the two countries, including more services by flag carrier Thai Airways International.
“There aren’t that many incoming flights from India yet due to internal politics,” Mr Srettha said in a media forum on Monday, referring to policies that seek to maintain capacity parity for carriers of both countries.
Air India, the former flag carrier, is in the midst of renewing its fleet and may or may not readily have enough jets to deploy on routes to the kingdom should Thai Air be allowed more services to India.
The country may consider other measures to boost Indian tourist arrivals, such as offering tax exemptions on jewellery imported for Indian weddings held in Thailand, a popular destination for such ceremonies, he said. As Indian tourists can already easily obtain Thai visas, a waiver of this requirement may not be necessary, he said.
Mr Srettha’s comments came a week after the cabinet approved temporary visa exemptions for Chinese and Kazakh tourists ahead of the high season. Tourists from the two countries can enter Thailand without a visa between Sept 25 and Feb 29 next year and can stay for a maximum of 30 days at a time.
The visa waiver programme is expected to bring in 35 billion baht from Chinese tourists, Mr Srettha said during the forum.
Chiang Mai Airport, located in northern Chiang Mai province, will operate flights on a 24-hour basis from Nov 1 to accommodate demand from Chinese visitors and the recently approved visa-free policy, government spokesman Chai Wacharonke said after Monday’s cabinet meeting.
“The airport traditionally operates flight time for 18 hours per day, but there has been demand from Chinese, Japanese and Korean tourists for late night flight operations so they can return to work in the morning upon landing in their countries,” said Mr Chai.
The government has been ramping up measures to boost the travel industry, a key growth driver of Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy. It aims to raise tourism revenue to its pre-Covid levels, with a target of 3.1 trillion baht in 2024.
Thailand has welcomed 18.5 million foreign tourists so far this year with as many as 28 million expected by the year-end. Revenue from foreign travellers totalled 775 billion baht as of Sept 11, according to the tourism ministry. The nation hosted a record 40 million tourists in 2019.