Arrivals up 20% in wake of VOA exemption, officials claim


BANGKOK: Tourist arrivals to Thailand are reportedly up 20% in the latter half of November in response to the government’s visa-on-arrival (VOA) fee waivers, with India the star market.

Visitors from other major markets like China are also bouncing back, according to Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat.

Arrivals from India and China are up about 20% compared with the first half of the month, when VOA fees were still in effect for countries under the scheme.

The starting date of waiving VOA fees for arrivals of 21 nationalities was Nov 15. The exemption runs through Jan 13.

The B2,000 VOA fee is waived for travellers from Andorra, Bulgaria, Bhutan, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, India, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

Before the implementation, a total of 2.7 million tourists visited the country in October, down 0.5% year-on-year, mainly due to slowing arrivals from China.

Some 646,000 Chinese tourists visited the country last month, a 19.8% plunge from October of last year, with revenue from the China market falling 16.5% to B34.6 billion.

For the India market, Mr Weerasak said about 117,000 Indians travelled to Thailand last month, a 4.2% increase from October 2017, with revenue jumping 8.2% to B5.3bn.

The India market is flashing a better outlook within a short period of the VOA scheme. The ministry is confident that tour groups from China will also pick up soon, as they may need time to work out air travel and accommodation and, most importantly, gain assurances on safety issues from the Thai side.

Local tourism operators and public organisations must learn the needs of these two big markets and prepare the right services to suit demands and interests, Mr Weerasak said.

For China, group travel will focus on major attractions and iconic places, while Indians travel with a small group or as a family.

The Tourism and Sports Ministry expects the VOA scheme to increase total arrivals this year to 38.4mn.

The ministry yesterday (Nov 27) launched a campaign with the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry and Srithai Superware Plc to promote responsible tourism by encouraging tourists to stop using plastic and foam products when they visit national parks.

Srithai Superware, a maker of melamine products, will offer 500 sets of reusable melamine containers to tourists at 10 national parks.

The National Resources and Environment Ministry will issue new rules for environmental protection, such as a smoking ban at beaches and curbs on the use of foam and plastic at 10 national parks. It will also set limits on the number of visitors at certain parks.

Courtesy: Published at The Phuket News on November 28, 2018

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