BANGKOK, 24 November 2016: The Thai Cabinet approved a plan, Tuesday to waive visa fees for tourists from 19 nations, 1 December to 28 February next year.
According to the Cabinet statement, the scheme will help to boost travel during the peak season months. They will still have to apply for a visa through normal channels, but the visa will be issued gratis.
There has been a dip in bookings since mid-October and tourism officials believe waiving the visa fee will send a confidence building message to overseas markets that the country welcomes visitors.
The 19 nations eligible for the visa-fee waiver comprise of Andorra, Bulgaria, Bhutan, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, India, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
India, China and Saudi Arabia are three markets that should benefit the most from the free visa privilege.
Citizens from the 19 countries needed to pay THB1,000 fee to process a visa at Thai embassies or consular offices. The visa-on-arrival fee that was increased, 27 September, to THB2,000 will be reduced to THB1,000 for citizens of the 19 countries.
The visa-on-arrival is valid for 15 days.
The scheme should encourage more tourists from China, based on past experience when Chinese were offered a gratis visa. Travel should also increase from India, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan.
For the first nine months of the year, the kingdom attracted 7.31 million Chinese travellers ( 19.58%), 895,880 Indians ( 13.40%), 416,010 Taiwanese (-5.81%) and 19,582 Saudi Arabians ( 26.45%).
The government assistant spokesperson, Athisit Chainuwat, said the measure could add 357,362 visits during the three-month period generating THB28,703 million in tourism revenue.
Officials claim it will create 62,429 jobs, increase government tax revenue by THB1,247 million and increase visa-on-arrival fee revenue by THB1,920 million. They are guess estimates.