TAT to propose visa fee exemption to lure more foreign tourists
The Tourism Authority of Thailand will ask the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) to consider waving visa fees until the year-end to promote arrivals and increased spending by foreign tourists.
TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said the proposal would be raised at the next CCSA meeting, which has not been scheduled yet.
Yuthasak said the visa fee exemption would be another step to boost revenue from foreign tourists after the CCSA abolished the Thailand Pass registration on July 1.
TAT expects revenue of 1.5 trillion baht this year, compared to 3 trillion in 2019 before the Covid pandemic, the governor said.
Tourism operators have been calling for the exemption of visa fees, once approved, until December 31.
The fee is currently 1,000 baht for those applying for a visa before arrival and 2,000 baht for a visa on arrival.
Yuthasak said tour operators also proposed that the government extend tourism visas from 30 to 45 days for those seeking one in advance and the visa on arrival from 15 to 45 days.
The operators believe a visa exemption and longer stay would encourage more foreign tourists to visit Thailand and stay longer, and thus spend more in the kingdom.
They also pointed out that the two proposals would support the government’s Visit Thailand Year 2022-2023 policy.
“The private sector and TAT has seen that each foreign tourist normally plans his or her tourism budget. If tourists don’t need to pay visa fees, they would spend the money in our country,” Yuthasak explained.
He said TAT expected about 5 million to 7 million foreign tourists to visit Thailand in the second half of this year and spend some 5-7 billion baht, injecting money into the domestic economy.
“This money will distribute income better to the grassroots people. In particular, Indian tourists who travel in families, will spend more here if they don’t have to pay 8,000 baht to 10,000 baht for visa fees alone,” Yuthasak said.
However, he said, the proposals would have to be considered by other related government agencies as well. Visa applications are under responsibility of the Foreign Ministry while the Immigration Bureau oversees the visa on arrival, he said.
Yuthasak noted that after Thailand Pass was discontinued on July 1, the number of foreign arrivals jumped to some 38,000 to 40,000 a day, compared to 25,000-30,000 a day in June.
“If the current rate of international arrivals continues, the number of foreign tourists will exceed one million per month. TAT expects about one million foreign tourists to arrive each month in the third quarter or from July to September. The number will increase to 1.5 million in the fourth quarter,” Yuthasak believed.
He said TAT expects about 9.5 million foreign tourists to visit Thailand this year – if there are enough flights for them.
In the first six months, 2.1 million visited the country, with Indians topping the list at 234,206, followed by 196,764 Malaysians and 127,371 Singaporeans.
Meanwhile, Thai Hotels Association president Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi said a survey of 137 hotels from June 13 to 26 found that the room occupancy rate in June was 38 per cent compared to 36 per cent in May.
She expected occupancy in July to improve because of the government’s extension of the fourth phase of its “We Travel Together” subsidy scheme.
The association expects an occupancy rate of more than 50 per cent in the fourth quarter, Marisa said.
The cancellation of Thailand Pass and the lifting of the mask mandate did bode well for the hotel business, resulting in a clearer sign of recovery, she maintained.
However, the lack of skilled personnel – as many have resigned and returned to their home provinces during the Covid pandemic – would hamper hotel business recovery, Marisa said.
According to her, the shortage of hotel personnel was serious in Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chonburi and Surat Thani.