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Bangkok to grant visa fee waivers for some to lift tourism slump

Bangkok to grant visa fee waivers for some to lift tourism slump

BANGKOK • Amid declining numbers of visitors, notably from China, during the traditional tourist high season, the Thai Cabinet agreed on Tuesday to waive the 2,000 baht (S$83) visa-on-arrival fee for tourists from 20 countries and Taiwan for 60 days to rev up one of the main engines of economic growth.

From Dec 1 this year until the end of January next year, tourists visiting Thailand from 20 countries will be able to enjoy the fee waiver as ”a New Year’s gift”.

Taiwanese travellers are also entitled to the fee waiver.

The duration of stay will remain unchanged at 15 days.

Passport holders of Andorra, Bulgaria, Bhutan, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, India, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan are eligible for the waiver.

The proposal was made to the Cabinet by the Immigration Bureau to boost falling tourist numbers over the peak New Year holiday season.

Thailand has seen a continuous decrease in the number of tourists, more than 10 per cent over the past three months, said government spokesman Puttipong Punnakanta.

The number of tourists coming through Suvarnabhumi Airport was 3.1 million in 2016 and 2.2 million last year, he said, but from January to September this year, the number declined to 1.7 million.

It is hoped the visa-fee exemption will attract 30 per cent more tourists and help generate more income for the tourism industry and the entire economy, Mr Puttipong said.

In the past few years, Thailand has been a popular destination among Chinese tourists.

However, due to a recent boat tragedy in the resort island of Phuket that killed more than 40 people, the number of tourists from China has dropped significantly by at least 11.7 per cent, according to the Ministry of Tourism and Sports.