Tourism operators have reached an agreement with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to propose a visa fee exemption for international arrivals and an eligibility extension for visitors from nations not requiring a visa to enter the country from 30 to 45 days during the second half of this year.
A joint meeting between the TAT and more than 100 representatives from 10 tourism associations yesterday ended with five proposals that are expected to be presented to the subcommittee of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) next week.
"All tourists should have been treated on an equal basis. If possible, we should also provide a fee waiver for multiple entry to allow them to visit neighbouring countries during the same trip," said Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, president of the Phuket Tourist Association.
"This could be a good opportunity for us to lead the reopening of CLMV." The CLMV countries are Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam.
At present, Thailand grants a visa exemption to 56 countries whose citizens don't have to apply for a visa or pay the 1,000-baht fee, but the stay is limited to 30 days.
However, most countries, including potential markets such as India, still require visitors to apply for a visa and pay an application fee for a stay of no more than 60 days.
The visa-on-arrival (VOA) option, which is the leading choice among visitors who do not wish to deal with the inconvenience of visiting a Thai consulate, costs 1,500 baht. However, this option only allows a visitor to stay in Thailand for a maximum of 15 days.
The 30-day limit may be insufficient for the current environment as tourists nowadays wish to take longer trips, as seen by the increase in average spending per visitor from 47,000 baht to 77,000 baht, said Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the TAT.
He said among high-spending tourists the visa fee amount may be insignificant, but if they can save on this cost, it would leave them more money to spend while travelling around the country, which would directly stimulate the local economy.
As the government previously extended the right to remain in the country from 30 to 45 days during the period when quarantine was required, if tourism operators want to seek another extension, it should not be an obstacle, said Mr Yuthasak.
"We totally agree with the proposal to waive the visa fee for those who must apply for a visa, in addition to extending the length of stay for both visa-free countries and the VOA," said Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association.
"The longer they stay, the more they can spend more locally."
In addition to visa issues, the private sector also agreed to ask the CCSA to lift restrictions on night entertainment hours by returning to the same practices adopted by each area before the pandemic.
They also support the idea of promoting Thailand as a mask-free destination by revoking the mask mandate in all areas.
Masks can be suggested for congested spaces or indoors. Private operators, such as hotels or restaurants, can make their own decision on whether to require their staff to wear a mask, according to the meeting.
Most representatives also agreed with the Tourism and Sport Ministry's proposal to cancel the Thailand Pass system, meaning the only requirements for visitors to the country would be vaccine certificates and insurance.
Temperature checks at all locations should be halted as experience has shown this measure cannot practically identify those infected with the virus, said the representatives.