BANGKOK: Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin is eyeing holidaymakers from India to boost tourism, even as the Southeast Asian nation plans visa waivers for travellers from China and Kazakhstan in the busy holiday season.
Srettha said he would make a trip to India this year with plans to meet his counterpart Narendra Modi and discuss increasing flight frequency between the two countries, including more services by flag carrier Thai Airways International Pcl.
“There aren’t that many incoming flights from India yet due to internal politics,” Srettha said in an interview during a media forum on Monday. “I hope to visit before the end of the year to negotiate on the issue.”
Thailand may also mull other measures to boost Indian tourist arrivals, such as offering tax exemptions on jewelry imported for Indian weddings held in Thailand, a popular destination for such ceremonies, he said. As Indian tourists already can easily obtain Thai visas, a visa waiver may not be necessary, he said.
Srettha’s comment came a week after his cabinet approved temporary visa exemptions for Chinese and Kazakh tourists ahead of the high season. Tourists from the two countries can enter Thailand without a visa between Sept 25 and Feb 29, and can stay for a maximum of 30 days at a time.
The visa waiver programme is expected to bring in 35 billion baht (US$980 million) from Chinese tourists, Srettha said during the forum.
Thailand has been ramping up measures to boost the travel industry, a key growth driver of the second-largest economy in Southeast Asia. It aims to raise tourism revenue to its pre-Covid levels, with a target of 3.1 trillion baht (US$87 billion) in 2024.
Thailand has welcomed 18.5 million foreign tourists so far this year with as many as 28 million expected by the year-end. Revenue from foreign travelers totalled 775 billion baht as of Sept 11, according to the tourism ministry. Prior to the pandemic, the nation hosted a record 40 million tourists in 2019.