The stimulus aims to draw foreign travellers to Thailand during the peak season after the recent sharp decline in Chinese tourists, who make up roughly one-third of arrivals.
Measures include a tax break for jewellery purchases, a tourism package with free flights to second-tier tourist provinces, and a waiver for visas on arrival.
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said the measures should be enforced this month, but was non-committal about the exact date for cabinet approval.
“The government has already assigned the Immigration Bureau to study waiving the visa-on-arrival fee for visitors from 21 countries,” he said. “The fee exemption and other incentives are expected to be submitted for cabinet approval very soon.”
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the government is also considering offering multiple-entry visas for foreign tourists, but the government remains concerned about security issues, citing the many illegal entries that use visa-on-arrival.
Adith Chairattananon, Secretary-General of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta), said the Immigration Bureau is set to propose to the cabinet today approval of visa privileges to lure back foreign tourists for the high season.
“The association has demanded the government offer the waiver of the visa-on-arrival fee for tourists from Nov 15 to Dec 31, and offer multiple-entry visas for a six-month period from November 2018 to May 2019,” said Mr Adith.
The visa-on-arrival fee is B2,000 per tourist and Atta suggested it be waived for visitors from 21 countries. The specific aim of the multiple-entry visas are Chinese tourists.
“If our demands are turned down, the private sector will continue seeking other aid measures, as tour operators in the mainland are also awaiting action from the Thai government, not only for visa privileges but also remedy measures following the tour boat calamity in July.”
Atta and travel companies have been asking the government for help after Chinese arrivals plunged since 47 Chinese tourists were killed in the Phoenix boat disaster off Phuket.
Mr Adith said the Chinese market remains the most important for inbound business.
Last week, the association cut its forecast for tourist arrivals from the mainland to 10.5 million this year from 12 million.
“We’re afraid the country may lose more than B50 billion this year if we are unable to restore the Chinese market,” he said.
Atta said travel companies and operators involved with inbound tourism have also pledged to help the government improve safety and security to ensure confidence among foreign tourists travelling in Thailand.
Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), said the agency is committed to continuing to restore tourist confidence as part of the short-term measures.
Starting this month, TAT’s ‘Amazing Thailand Grand Sale Passport Privileges’ campaign is aimed to draw foreign shoppers. The campaign ends in December.
The TAT is also scheduled to participate in China International Travel Mart in Shanghai during Nov 16-18.
TAT will organise New Year Electronic Music Festival in Pattaya during Dec 30-31 as well as major countdown events in Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya and Chiang Mai on Dec 31.
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