Moves to extend free visa-on-arrival

BANGKOK, 3 April 2019: Travel industry leaders are pressing the Thai government to extend a waiver of the THB2,000 visa-on-arrival fee up to October this year.

The waiver has already been extended once from January to the end of April to encourage nationals from 21 countries who are eligible for a visa-on-arrival at Thailand’s international border checkpoints.

Travellers from China and India were the main target for the waiver. It worked as far as India was concerned with an increase in arrivals of around 20% and while arrivals from China did not increase the fee waiver was credited with slowing the decline rate.

But there are signs of a pushback on the proposed October end date with the Immigration chief Lt-Gen Surachate Hakparn apparently preferring a July cut-off date.

According to Bangkok Biz News, Surachate was in talks with Deputy Prime Minister, Somkid Jatusripitak suggesting the extension has the attention of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha.

Not everyone in tourism is overjoyed with extending the fee waiver beyond April.

It is understood that Minister of Tourism and Sports,  Weerasak Kowsurat, would prefer nationals of the 21 countries to pay for the visa-on-arrival, with an option of a free second visit included within a six-month period.

At present, the free visa-on-arrival expires 30 April. It was extended to allow tourists to visit Thailand for the annul Songkran Festival 13 to 15 April.

The Tourism Council of Thailand, 30 March confirmed it supported the proposal to extend the waiver to 31 October when the low season ends.

There is also a competitive element creeping into the discussion. TCT claimed “many Asian countries were using the free-visa offer to boost travel.

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