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Visa fee exemption boosts Indian arrivals to Thailand

Thailand’s waiver of visa-on-arrival fees is likely to get less attention from Chinese travellers as arrivals from the mainland are still declining. Instead, the 2,000-baht fee exemption that runs from Nov 15, 2018 to Oct 31, 2019 has given a big boost to India, one of the 21 nations eligible for the exemption.

Arrivals from China in the first quarter this year dropped slightly by 2.1per cent year-on-year to 3.1 million visitors, compared with a 25per cent growth in Indian arrivals to 450,000. For Chinese visitors who came and used the services of members of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA), there was a big drop of 13.6per cent to 1.05 million visitors during Jan 1 to April 20. Atta reports an 11per cent increase of 76,300 visitors from India during the same period. Chinnarat Chinburi, a committee member of ATTA, said the India market has been growing steadily over the past decade by 5-10 per cent annually thanks to its huge population of some 1.3 billion. He said the improving economy and growing middle class is driving more Indians to travel abroad.

While first-time visitors is a growth segment, the visa fee exemption, roughly 4,000 to 5,000 rupees, is an attractive tool to draw them here. Furthermore, it helped raise the competitiveness of Thailand among neighbouring countries, said Chinnarat. Indian tourists also enjoy visiting Myanmar and Vietnam.

Chinnarat, who has over 30 years of experience in the Indian market, said visitors from India can be broken down into three groups: incentives, leisure and wedding. He said the general election in India, being held from April 11 to May 19, has slowed travel from incentive groups, but they are expected to return in October.

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