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Immigration officials raise concerns over waiving visa fee for Chinese tourists

Flickr/Dawn in Phuket, Thailand

Thailand’s Immigration Bureau is raising concerns over PM Srettha Thavisin’s proposal to offer free visas to Chinese tourists. The PM’s plan is aimed at boosting Chinese arrival numbers, which have been well below target so far this year.

Adith Chairattananon from the Association of Thai Travel Agents points to the weak yuan and sluggish Chinese economy, which has led to more people holidaying in their home country.

The situation has not been helped by scare stories about safety, currently circulating on Chinese social media, according to Adith. In addition, many Chinese travel firms still haven’t fully recovered post-pandemic, due to labour shortages and higher operating costs.

In an effort to attract more Chinese visitors, Srettha’s administration is planning to waive visa fees from October 1. The government is believed to be in talks with security agencies and other relevant bodies, according to a Bangkok Post report.

However, there are fears in some corners that making it easier (or at least, cheaper) to enter Thailand could lead to an influx of less desirable elements. According to Pakphumpipat Sajjapan, chief of the Immigration Bureau, free visas could open up a loophole whereby scam call centre gangs, illegal businesses, and other criminals can enter the kingdom.

In addition, Pakphumpipat says eliminating visa fees for Chinese travellers could increase the workload for Immigration and create congestion at airport immigration desks. Nevertheless, the IB chief says his bureau is ready to work with the free visa policy, if implemented.

Pakphumpipat adds that additional measures will be needed in order to avoid congestion, including having all immigration counters open during peak arrival hours. He says a request to Airports of Thailand for more space for immigration desks at international airports was rejected.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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