Visa abolition not a total answer to tourist shortages

Visa exemption for some countries fails to boost tourism as Thailand continues to grapple with a persistent shortage of visitors.

Hopes that visa exemptions for countries which provide big numbers of visitors to Thailand will create a further boom have yet to be realized. Currently, Russian tourists are awarded 90 days visa-free, whilst China, India and Taiwan receive 30 days. These discretions are currently timed for a six months limited period, although prime minister Srettha Thavisin would like permanency if no serious security issues loom. Visas on arrival previously cost around US$30.

However, the customer savings would be partly wiped out if Thailand goes ahead with its US$9 entry tax to be levied on all international tourists. This proposal has received many starting dates, the most recent September 2023, but nothing has been heard in recent weeks. The difficulty is believed to be collection issues without creating huge queues at Thai airports and border crossings.

But other issues are more immediate problems. The Chinese economy has slowed and negative stories about Thailand, including the safety of visitors, have proliferated on mainland media. As regards India, there is currently a shortage of flights whilst many Indians travel in large groups which require lengthy advance notice. Numbers of Chinese and Indian tourists are still 20 percent lower than in the immediate pre-covid era, according to the Tourist Association of Thailand.

Prachoom Tantiprasertsuk, chair of marketing at the Thai Hotels Association, said that the benefits of visa exemption might be more obvious in the second quarter of next year as more corporations and individuals opt for Thailand, assuming the visa abolition proves to be permanent. Meanwhile, there are no indications that American and European tourists will receive more than 30 days without a visa. However, they are able to extend a further month at local immigration, or visit the border with Cambodia for extra time.