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Tourism officials lukewarm on visa fee waiver proposal

Chinese tourists in Thailand

Officials have given a less than enthusiastic response to a proposal from tourism operators that a visa fee waiver scheme should be introduced. Tourism operators say this would stimulate the market and boost inbound foreign tourism.

Foreign tourist projections have been outstripping the actual arrivals for this time in Thailand’s tourism recovery.

Thailand’s most lucrative inbound market have been Chinese travellers, but the recovery of Chinese travel has been hampered with a lack of flights and, it is thought, the cost and trouble of a pre-travel visa application of a visa-on-arrival.

However, the governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Yuthasak Supasorn, says he’s not confident that a visa fee waiver is the way to go. Yuthasak points out that the main challenge currently is the waiting period for visa applications to be processed (if travellers decide to pre-apply before their travel).

According to a report from the National News Bureau of Thailand, the TAT governor says that while tourism is on the rebound, experts expect the sector will achieve less than 50% of 2019’s level, which peaked at around 40 million visitors. Things are not helped by the slow recovery of the Chinese economy and an insufficient number of international flights, as airlines struggle to acquire enough aircraft.

That said, the TAT is optimistic that Thailand will see a jump in visitor numbers during China’s so-called “Golden Week” holiday in October. Airlines are expected to increase their services to meet demand during that period, according to the TAT boss.

Thai Lion Air has already confirmed 6 new routes to China, with services to Guangzhou, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Xi’an commencing August 15.

Meanwhile, things are also picking up for Thai AirAsia, with the carrier reporting an average load factor of 80% on its Chinese routes during the first half of 2023. The airline says it plans to gradually resume routes to southern China and hopes things will be fully back to normal by the end of this year.

SOURCE: National News Bureau of Thailand

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