Phuket's tourism authorities are gearing up measures to welcome an expected jump in tourist arrivals from China and Kazakhstan when the new visa-free policy is applied next week.
Announced in the Royal Gazette on Tuesday, easier entry and 30-day visa-free stays for nationals of both countries will be effective from Monday and last until Feb 29.
To welcome the first set of tourists of both nationalities, the deputy governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and a representative of the TAT's office in Phuket will attend a welcome ceremony arranged for the first visa-free flights landing at the resort island on Monday, according to Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce in Phuket.
When asked about the benefits island tourism may expect from this five-month-long visa scheme, Mr Kongsak said the island could see waves of tourists from both countries, especially China, as the eased conditions for those who want to travel on the island might lead to easier trip planning.
With that said hospitality businesses have plenty of space for tourists. According to Mr Kongsak, more Chinese tourists are expected to help the industry recover, as their numbers have already rebounded to 30% of the pre-pandemic level.
Mr Kongsak expected the number to be better with an improved hotel reservation rate that sprung up in the first week of this month as tourism transitions to the high season due to the island's vegetarian festival.
Phuket Tourist Association president Thaneth Tantipiriyakij also expected the recovery rate to double. The higher ticket prices after the scheme was announced might lead the island to expect better-quality Chinese tourists, he said.
However, more cooperation between the Chinese and Thai governments is expected, especially a give-to-go (G2G) plan to boost tourism on the island. Regarding Kazakh tourists, Mr Thaneth said the 250,000 tourists the TAT expected this year could flow to Vietnam instead. This is because Vietnam has devised a similar visa-free scheme, and Vietnamese carriers are providing direct flights between the two countries.