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Tourism operators are reacting positively to a three-month visa fee waiver for Chinese and Taiwanese tourists by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).
The waiver will be in effect from Aug 1 to Oct 31 to mark 39 years of official Thai-Chinese relations. If results are positive for the tourism industry, the NCPO will consider renewing it.
Piyaman Tejapaibul, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT), said the visa fee waiver was aimed at restoring Chinese and Taiwanese tourist confidence.
The Thai industry has been in a slump since late last year due to the political turmoil.
“But now the political situation here is stabilising, and we hope Chinese tourists will return very soon,” Ms Piyaman said.
The TCT proposed earlier a visa fee waiver for Chinese tourists for one year, but many tourism operators disagreed with that idea.
It expects tourists from China will number 4.5 million this year, down from 4.7 million last year. First-half arrivals were down by 23.4% year-on-year to 1.87 million.
Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA), said the waiver should benefit Thai tourism operators, as visas for Chinese and Taiwanese tourists cost 1,000 baht at present.
“The money is not a big deal, but Chinese travellers will feel Thailand is prioritising them. This waiver sends a strong message,” he said, adding that ATTA forecast 4 million Chinese tourists this year.
Mr Sisdivachr said tour operators wanted to know more details about the waiver so they could better design their tourism products.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) said it would announce more details in the next couple of days but vowed to support travel agents selling tourism packages to the targeted group during the three-month period.
Srisuda Wananpiyosak, the TAT’s executive director for East Asia, agreed the scheme would be an important factor in regaining Chinese tourist confidence.
The waiver will run during the low season but also cover China’s Golden Week of Oct 1-7 as well as school holidays.
The TAT expects the programme will ultimately prove beneficial in the coming high season as well.
This year, the TAT expects tourist arrivals from China will total 3.98 million accounting for revenue of 158 billion baht, down from 4.7 million visitors and 182 billion in revenue last year.