TAT calls for extended tourist visas

TAT calls for extended tourist visas

90-day stays for Russians proving popular, and more long-haul countries should be added

Tourists relax on the beach in Phuket. (File photo/Achathaya Chuenniran)
Tourists relax on the beach in Phuket. (File photo/Achathaya Chuenniran)

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is asking the government to extend the visa-free stay duration for long-haul tourists, including those from the United States and Europe, to 90 days, aiming to lift long-haul revenue to 40% of the country’s total in 2024.

Longer-duration visas would help increase average length of stay and maximise spending per trip, said Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, the TAT deputy governor for Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas.

Thailand currently offers tourist visas on arrival to nationals of more than 60 countries, including the US, the UK, Germany, France and Scandinavian nations. Most are eligible to stay for 30 days before they must apply for a visa.

Mr Siripakorn said the extended visa had proved successful with Russian tourists, for whom the government temporarily granted 90-day stays last November.

Last year more than 100,000 foreign tourists applied for a visa that allowed them to stay in Thailand for 60 days, he said. A majority were from the US, the UK, Sweden and Germany.

“Extending stays should add at least a million room nights nationwide,” he said.

The agency has also asked the National Tourism Policy Committee to continue other traveller-friendly measures until the end of this year.

They include the suspension of TM6 forms at Thai-Malaysia border crossings, a 30-day visa-free stay for Kazakh tourists, and the 90-day visa-free stay for Russians.

He said these proposals would need cabinet approval.

The TAT this year aims for a new high of 10 million long-haul tourists, or nearly 30% of the 35 million foreign tourists it is expecting.

Prior to the pandemic in 2019, Thailand had 9 million long-haul tourists, or 23% of its 40 million foreign visitors, while their revenue contribution was 33% of the 1.9-trillion-baht total.

Mr Siripakorn said long-haul flights to Thailand this winter have improved to 80% of pre-pandemic levels, which should contribute to more arrivals.

The TAT will also encourage international airlines to open new routes to less congested airports in destinations such as Surat Thani, U-tapao in Chon Buri, Krabi and Chiang Mai.

Mr Siripakorn said that despite geopolitical tensions, such as the Red Sea conflict and Europe’s sluggish economy, overseas tourism remains essential for European travellers.

They tend to stay longer in Thailand, as the kingdom’s affordable living prices offset high airfares.

He expects some major markets this year to set records, with up to 2 million Russian tourists, while the US, the UK and Germany should also exceed 1 million each.

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