The Thai tourism industry, one of the few bright spots in the kingdom’s economy, has recently been suffering from the government’s crackdown on so-called “zero-dollar tours” from China. In fact, the Russians are now back in force and have replaced the hordes of Chinese tour groups in many parts of the country.
From a revenue point of view, that’s obviously like jumping from the frying pan straight into the fire. Both the Chinese and Russians are certainly not the biggest spenders and spend their money mainly on speedboats to Koh Larn, in massage parlours and 7-Eleven.
What is more, the Chinese have accounted for nearly 30% of all visitors to Thailand so far this year. So even a surge in Russian tourist arrivals can hardly counterbalance the sharp decrease in arrival numbers from China. (According to some industry sources, these are down by a whopping 60% since the end of September.)
Hence, what could be more suitable than waiving visa fees for a couple of months in an attempt to lure more tourists to Thailand? Great idea, uh?
No sooner said than done. In order to promote tourism over the coming three “high season” months, the Thai cabinet agreed on Tuesday to waive tourist visa fees from December 1 to February 28.
Likewise, the fee for a “visa on arrival” (not to be confused with “visa-exempt” entries) has also been reduced to 1,000 Baht for three months.
Well, at least the temporary discount applies to nationals from the following 19 countries: Andorra, Bulgaria, Bhutan, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, India, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.
So aside from a few dozen Ethiopians and the usual tourist crowds (sic) from Andorra, Bhutan, Mauritius and San Marino, it will be mainly the Chinese and the Indians that will benefit from the promotion.
In other words (and while applying for a visa is getting increasingly harder for Farang tourists and residents), Thailand wants the Chinese back. End of story.