BANGKOK, 8 November 2018: The on-and-off project to cut the THB2,000 visa-on-arrival fee for tourists to Thailand is now definitely on according to a Thai government announcement, Tuesday.
Bangkok Post followed the story at every twist and turn providing readers with contradictory reports over the last month, but its Wednesday update appears to draw a line under the subject.
Travellers will be able to stay in the country for 15-days under the free VOA terms.
The visa-on arrival fee will be waived for two months starting 1 December and ending 31 January for nationals of 21 countries including China and India, two of the two five biggest source markets for travel to Thailand.
However, there is no doubt the fee waiver is a concession to Chinese visitors, who have drifted off to other destinations concerned about safety issues in Thailand and a decline in the value of the yuan against the US dollar.
Officials quoted by the Bangkok Post claimed the fee waiver would help to increase tourist arrivals “by at least 30%” without giving any further details to substantiate the claim.
Based on 815,492 Chinese visits registered in December 2017, a 30% increase would bring in an extra 250,000 visitors. In January 2017 the record showed there were 859,617 visits, so over a two-month period, December 2018 to January 2019, a 30% improvement would give the country an extra 500,000 tourists from China, all due to a waiver of the visa-on-arrival fee? That’s a stretch.
But with, or without the fee waiver, the year should close with the country welcoming more than 10 million visits from China up from 9.8 million in 2017.
Critics of the concessions said it was meaningless as Chinese were concerned about safety not the cost of travel, while supporters said it underscored the message that Thailand was welcoming Chinese tourists, a kind of confidence builder.
Despite the forecasts that claimed Thailand would lose up to 1 million Chinese tourists this year, the first three-quarters closed with a 13.38% increase (8,394,101 visits), but what worried the trade was the 8.8% decline during the third quarter of the year, July to September.
Earlier in the year tourism officials estimated Chinese visits would surpass 10,400,000 in 2018.
Is there are a ‘next chapter’ to the Visa-on-Arrival saga? Probably, as reliable travel industry sources say there is growing ministerial support to extend the visa-fee waiver beyond 31 January 31, possibly through to the end of 2019. Interesting thought, but if the proposal does gain traction critics are likely to suggest cooling tourism expansion would be a better idea, while VOA fee collection could fund projects to restore endangered beach resorts. But watch this space.
Thailand: Visa-on-Arrival 21 countries:
Andorra; Bhutan; Bulgaria; China; Cyprus; Ethiopia; Fiji; India; Kazakhstan; Latvia; Lithuania; Maldives; Malta; Mauritius; Papua New Guinea; Romania; San Marino; Saudi Arabia; Taiwan; Ukraine; Uzbekistan.