Tourism trade wants restrictions relaxed

Tourism trade wants restrictions relaxed

Malaysia inching closer to Thailand

Tourists visit a market in Hat Yai district of Songkhla. (Photo: Assawin Pakkawan)
Tourists visit a market in Hat Yai district of Songkhla. (Photo: Assawin Pakkawan)

Tourism operators hope the government eases travel restrictions to promote cross-border travel amid fierce competition in Southeast Asia, especially as Malaysia inched closer to Thailand last year.

This week Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin travelled to three provinces in the deep South, hoping to elevate trade and tourism.

Songchai Mungprasithichai, president of the Songkhla Tourism Promotion Association, said the temporary suspension of the TM6 immigration form requirement at Sadao checkpoint helped facilitate border travel and increased Malaysian arrivals by 10-20% per day after its implementation in November last year. The suspension expires in April.

During the Chinese New Year holiday, more than 10,000 Malaysian tourists visited Hat Yai and Songkhla per day, bolstering the hotel occupancy rate to 80-90%.

After the festival the number fell to 5,000 daily arrivals, which is typical for a non-holiday period.

He said the government should suspend use of the TM6 form across all major southern immigration checkpoints, including Betong and Sungai Kolok, to significantly improve cross-border travel.

The administration also needs to urgently work on resolving conflicts and promoting peace in the southern provinces to expand new tourism opportunities, which have been hampered by an emergency decree, said Mr Songchai.

He said the decree dents the confidence of foreign tourists, particularly those who are unfamiliar with the deep South, such as tourists from China, the UK and Europe, unlike domestic tourists or people from Malaysia and Singapore who understand the situation.

Malaysia posted 26 million foreign arrivals in 2023, nearing the 28 million recorded by Thailand.

Mr Songchai said the strong growth in Malaysia could be attributed to the strong resumption of flights, its reputation for safety and convenient transport.

Singaporeans can easily visit Malaysia en masse via border checkpoints, while the country also provides visa-free entry to Chinese and Indian tourists, the same strategy deployed by Thailand to boost tourism, he said.

Bo Sun, chief marketing officer of, an online travel platform, said Thailand should continue to see steady arrivals from China driven by the permanent visa-free agreement starting from March 1.'s live-stream collaboration with the Tourism Authority of Thailand targeting Chinese viewers achieved more than 100 million baht in gross merchandise value, indicating a strong interest in Thailand, especially for upcoming festivals such as Songkran, said Mr Sun.

The platform saw Bangkok as the most popular destination in Southeast Asia last year, while Phuket and Chiang Mai remained in the top 10.

He said Thailand bookings also soared 110% during Chinese New Year.

China will also expect more outbound Thai travellers from the visa-free programme, but it would not be easy to overtake Japan, the top destination for Thai tourists.

"We are optimistic about the continued recovery of the tourism industry globally, especially in Asia, where there have been many visa-free travel agreements made in recent months," said Mr Sun.

Do you like the content of this article?