The Immigration Bureau (IB) will increase officer numbers at Suvarnabhumi International Airport ahead of an expected jump in tourist arrivals from China and Kazakhstan when the new visa-free policy is applied next week.
Approved on Sept 13 and announced in the Royal Gazette on Tuesday, easier entry for nationals of both countries will be effective from Monday and run until Feb 29 next year.
To prepare for the increasing number of tourists, deputy police commissioner Pol Lt Gen Thatchai Pitaneelaboot on Tuesday met with officers from Immigration Division 2 at the airport to discuss and inspect the officers' preparation for welcoming the wave of visitors during the tourist high season.
Pol Lt Gen Thatchai said that the airport will welcome more visitors after the scheme rolls out. The number of Chinese tourists is expected to rise sharply from 300,000 to 500,000 a month, he said.
About 150 immigration police officers are prepared to man all 119 immigration counters during peak hours at the airport when the visa-free policy is applied in order to provide fast service. The peak hours for flights from China and Kazakstan are before dawn and midday. Each visitor is expected to spend less than 20 minutes in the visa queue, he said.
Special immigration checkpoints for tour groups will also be opened, he said. while officers with specialist language skills will be assigned to immigration areas in case visitors need assistance.
Asked if the visa-free scheme will make it easier for Chinese nationals working in shady businesses to enter Thailand, Pol Lt Gen Thatchai said the Immigration Bureau has measures for screening and background checking systems to minimise the chance of those in shady operations coming into Thailand.
From Jan 1 to Sept 18 this year, Thailand welcomed 19,000,988 international tourists, generating about 795 billion baht for the country, according to the Tourism and Sports Ministry.
Last week alone, the country welcomed 470,708 foreign tourists.