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Visa fee waiver

Thailand expects to welcome more tourists with the extension of the visa fee waiver. Photo: Thiti Wannamontha

The government has approved the six-month extension of the visa fee waiver and halved the visa-on-arrival fee to 1,000 baht for tourists from 21 countries.

According to Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Yuthasak Supasorn, visitors who need to apply for tourist visas at Royal Thai embassies or Thai consulates abroad will not have to pay any fees for entry visas. In addition, the fees for visas on arrival have been reduced from 2,000 baht to 1,000 baht per person.

The fee reduction will benefit tourists from 21 countries including 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.

"This policy will help motivate visitors from these countries to discover amazing stories in Amazing Thailand," said the governor.

The special visa scheme will extend until Aug 31.

According to the statistics of the Tourism Department, about 32.58 million visitors came to Thailand last year, up about 9% from 29.92 million visitors in 2015.

The largest group of visitors were from China (8.75 million visitors), followed by Malaysia (3.53 million), Korea (1.46 million), Japan (1.43 million) and Laos (1.4 million).

The fastest growth were visitors from Argentina (56.4%), followed by Brazil (38.7%), Myanmar (31%), Nepal (30%) and Saudi Arabia (29%).

Savvi app

A new tech start-up has launched the Savvi travel app in Thailand.

"Savvi is an easy-to-use map-based mobile application that helps travellers share the best travel tips and local information -- the kind of hidden gems that can't be found in guidebooks or on the internet," according to Savvi Co-founder and CEO Alex Grosvenor.

The app allows mobile phone users to post their travel feeds, the format of which may remind one of Instagram. Users can post a photo with a description. Savvi also allows other users to comment on each post, give the thumb up or down, find out the location through Google Maps, share and save the place for the future visit.

Each user can categorise their posts into Eats, Nightlife, Lodging, Activities, Shopping, Sights and Tips. The posts can also be filtered by "Most Votes", "Trending", "Newest" and "Nearest" to give quicker access to the information.

The app can be downloaded for free on the App store. Visit savvi.travel.

Airlines update

Emirates has launched a pay-per-visit access allowing its passengers in economy class to use its luxury lounges at Dubai International Airport.

According to the airline's executive vice-president and COO Adel Al Redha, the pay-per-visit service is based on its customer feedback. Many customers appreciate the opportunity to be able to pay for their additional guests and access the lounge.

Dubai International Airport is home to seven Emirates lounges. The fees for access to Emirates Business Class lounges is US$100 (3,500 baht) and $200 for the Emirates First Class lounges. Business Class customers can upgrade to First Class lounge access for a fee of $100. Guests who have paid a fee for entry can stay for up to four hours.

AirAsia has launched "AirAsia's Runway Ready Designer Search 2017" to find the best designer in Asean.

The competition, held for the second time and in collaboration with the Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week Ready To Wear team, is open to any individual of any nationality in Southeast Asia. Participants must be 30 years of age or below. Audition rounds will be held in each country including Bangkok on May 20 to find the top three designers. They will compete in the final round where they will have a chance to show their collection on the KL Fashion Week Ready To Wear runway from Aug 16-20 in Kuala Lumpur.

The winner will be awarded prizes worth about 2.7 million baht including a chance to produce a capsule collection which will be sold on FashionValet.com, 150,000 AirAsia BIG Points, tickets for AirAsia flights and a confirmed slot in KL Fashion Week Ready To Wear 2018.

The last day for submission is April 12.

Visit www.klfashionweek.com.

Hotels update

The Bangkok-based U City has expanded its business in Europe.

It acquired 24 hotels including 16 hotels of Vienna House in Germany and eight hotels from Warimpex which are located in cities and towns in the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania.

In addition, the hotel will also manage an additional 12 third-party hotels located in Austria, Belarus, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Russia and Slovakia.

The acquisition is worth 12.3 billion baht and done through an Austrian acquisition company. Upon completion on July 31, U City's hospitality business will expand across nine European countries.

"This is U City's strategic acquisition to diversity our hotel investment portfolio beyond Asia across to Europe in both established and fast-growing markets," said U City CEO Piyaporn Phanachet.

U City is the former Natural Park Public Co. It has been in the real estate development business for 28 years. The company also owns Centara Hotel and Convention Centre Khon Kaen, Anantara Chiang Mai Resort and Spa and Eastin Grand Sathorn Bangkok.

Thailand-based Minor Hotels Group will open the first Anantara hotel in Europe on April 1.

The hotel is Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort. It is renovated from the former Tivoli Victoria hotel.

The refurbishment includes the main lobby, spa and fitness centre. When the hotel opens, it will offer 280 rooms, six restaurants and bars, meeting and function rooms, four swimming pools, a tennis court, a brand new children's and teens' club. Located along southern Portugal's Algarve coast, the hotel is about 15-minutes drive from Faro International Airport.

Visit www.anantara.com/portugal.


Email karnjanak@bangkokpost.co.th if you have any comments to share.

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