Visa fee exemption for Chinese begins

The military has waived the visa fee for Chinese and Taiwanese tourists for three months from Aug 8 this year.

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The Interior Ministry announcement was published in the Royal Gazette on Friday.

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 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 on July 16 the 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.

Thailand is expected to welcome 4.5 million Chinese tourists 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.

The waiver will run during the low season but also cover China's Golden Week of Oct 1-7 as well as school holidays.

This year, the Tourism Authority of Thailand 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.

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