14th Feb 2020
Thailand is mulling over waiving visas for Chinese nationals after tourist arrivals during the first nine days of the month plunged by nearly 50 percent.
Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said on February 14, Friday, that the ministry will resubmit a visa-free policy to the cabinet in April, on condition that Chinese authorities handle the outbreak first. He said that the Chinese market, along with the Indian market, is essential to ease congestion at crowded airports while simultaneously increasing their carrying capacity.
From February 1 to 9 alone, international tourist arrivals fell by 43.4 percent to 730,213 year-on-year, with the tourism boom dampened by fears over the virus outbreak. Tourist arrivals from mainland China alone declined by 86.6 percent. The ministry said the drop is likely to rise further to 90 percent for February and shave figures by half for the first semester of the year, except if the containment of the virus becomes successful.
Should the travel ban on Chinese nationals be lifted, passenger volume from China is expected to recover in April in time for the Songkran festival. The ministry said that inbound Chinese tourists for June and July are expected to rise to 1.5 million each, up from the average of 900,000 recorded monthly.
Ratchakitprakarn sat with the public and private sectors on Thursday to tackle measures for the ailing tourism industry, among which are the reduction of value-added tax for tourism business, a fuel tax cut for tour boats, and recommendations for the establishment of an office to regulate the direction of quality tourism and the development of a homeport for cruises. In addition, the private sector also proposed a plan to provide assistance worth five million baht to tourists who succumbed to coronavirus in Thailand.
“We might also propose that the Cabinet allow entrepreneurs who run businesses in the entertainment area to stay open until 4 am, but we must first survey the operators and tourists to get their opinions,” he said. “The Tourism Authority of Thailand will need to work harder in the second half to compensate for the first, ” he added.