Govt mulls 90-day visas for European visitors
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Govt mulls 90-day visas for European visitors

Immigration officers work at Suvarnabhumi airport in February. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)
Immigration officers work at Suvarnabhumi airport in February. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)

Thailand may waive visa requirements for travellers from more European countries and is lining up hundreds of cultural and sporting events as it works to induce holidaymakers to stay longer and spend more, the government has said.

The government is discussing a plan to let tourists of some European nationalities stay as long as 90 days, Prommin Lertsuridej, a top aide to Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, said in an interview Thursday. There will also be about 3,000 events like music concerts, marathons and other cultural festivities organised through to next year to draw tourists, he said.

Mr Srettha, who became prime minister in August, has identified tourism as a “quick win” to accelerate Thailand’s economic growth. His administration has temporarily waived visa requirements for travellers from Russia, China, Kazakhstan, India and Taiwan, and ordered airlines to add more routes while streamlining airport operations to cut waiting time for visitors. It also plans to allow nightlife entertainment venues in some areas of Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Chonburi to operate until 4am starting next month.

While Thailand has rolled back most pandemic-era curbs on visitors, average spending per traveller has lagged pre-Covid levels and missed official estimates. 

In 2019, the country saw record foreign arrivals — almost 40 million — which generated 1.91 trillion baht in revenue. That year, each tourist spent an average of 47,895 baht per trip which lasted nine days on average, according to official data. As of Nov 12 this year, Thailand has welcomed 23.2 million foreign tourists and received 981.7 billion baht in foreign tourist receipts. That means it is currently tracking about 12% below the 2019 per-trip spending benchmark.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand has set a goal to raise foreign tourism revenue back to pre-Covid levels, targeting at least 2 trillion baht ($57 billion) in 2024.

Mr Srettha last week announced the “Winter Festival” celebrations that will include the Loi Krathong festival, Bangkok Marathon and New Year. The event is designed to showcase Thailand’s unique culture and attract tourists during the high season between November and January.

“We will design more attractions and promotions to incentivize tourists to stay longer,” Mr Prommin, who is secretary-general to the premier, said.  “Longer stay, more events to attract them, more fun on the nightlife scene. This is how we’re planning for tourists to spend more.”

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