Thailand extends free visa scheme
BANGKOK, 9 February 2017: The Thai Cabinet approved, Tuesday, an extension of its free visa concession for tourists from 21 countries for another six months.
Tourists who need a visa to visit Thailand must still apply through normal channels, but the customary THB1,000 fee to process the visa is waived. The visa is valid for a 30-day stay.
The concession applies from 1 March to 31 August this year. The current free visa concession is due to expire 28 February.
Eligible nationalities: Andorra, Bulgaria, Bhutan, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, India, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Papua New Guinea and Republic of Fiji Islands.
India, China and Saudi Arabia are three markets that should benefit the most from the free visa privilege.
The visa-on-arrival fee that was increased, 27 September, last year, to THB2,000 has also been reduced to THB1,000 for citizens of the 21 countries. The visa-on-arrival is valid for 15 days.
The scheme aims to encourage more travellers to visit the kingdom particularly from major markets like China, India, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan.
Last year, China was top of Thailand tourism player recording 8.75 million visits increasing 10.34% from 7.93 million visits in 2015.
Other markets: 1.19 million from India (+11.63%); 522,231 from Taiwan (-5.51%); and 24,830 from Saudi Arabia (+29.54%).
Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said the fee concession will help to attract more travellers to visit the country during low tourism season.
“The policy will also help the country’s tourism to achieve its 2017 target of 35 million foreign visits generating THB1.78 trillion in revenue …the scheme will also encourage FIT travellers to choose Thailand as their travel destination.”
Overall tourism-related revenue is targeted to reach THB2.71 trillion this year, of which THB930 billion will come from domestic travellers.
In 2016, the country attracted 32,588,303 international visits improving 8.91% compared to 29,923,185 in 2015.
Last year, overall tourism revenue reached THB2.51 trillion increasing 10.93% and exceeding the target of THB2.4 trillion.
Of that, THB1.64 trillion came from international markets and THB870 billion from the domestic market. They are revenue estimates based on exit surveys to determine an average spend per tourist, but are not considered accurate.
The revenue forecasts are based on spending estimates based on exit surveys and other sources such as data on credit card spend.
In related news, the Minister of Tourism confirmed a pilot project to introduce an e-Visa will be introduced by the end of the year.
If the trial run is successful e-Visas will be rolled out for all nationalities that need a visa by the end of 2018.
While Thailand is the leisure travel leader in ASEAN it has been slow to use technology to make visa applications more user friendly. Myanmar was the first ASEAN nation to introduce a e-Visas online with credit card payment. Vietnam has recently announced it will introduce a similar e-Visa service this year.