Visa-free policies boost international travel and economies

Photo courtesy of Bangkok Post

The international travel industry experienced a significant rebound last year, following the implementation of visa-free policies by various governments. These policies aimed to rejuvenate their ailing economies through the influx of spending by foreign tourists.

Thailand, for instance, witnessed 28 million arrivals in 2023 largely due to the strong performance in the last quarter. This surge was precipitated by visa exemptions extended to citizens of China, India, Taiwan, and Kazakhstan. An extended stay period of 90 days granted to Russian nationals also contributed significantly to this upturn.

Adith Chairattananon, the honorary secretary-general of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, highlighted the utility of visa-free schemes as a commonly adopted approach in many countries across economic scales. These schemes are specifically employed to stimulate economies via international tourism.

China, the world’s second-largest economy, also adopted this approach by waiving visa requirements for six countries, including five European nations and Malaysia, in November last year. This policy saw a drastic increase of 28.5% in arrivals from these countries within the first 30 days. Consequently, Beijing expanded the policy to include other countries, including Thailand and Singapore.

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Adith further noted that the visa exemption scheme has been particularly successful in the Chinese and Taiwanese markets in Thailand. He anticipates the continuation of this positive momentum from visa privileges this year as well.

“Tourism operators have been told that the government will extend the visa exemption to both Taiwan and India for one year once the initial period for the first phase ends in May this year. This policy will help keep positive momentum for the whole year.”

Continuation of positive momentum

Sarayuth Mallam, vice-president of the Phuket Tourist Association, highlighted the increased demand from long-stay tourists in Phuket, particularly from Russia and Ukraine. The ongoing war has made it difficult for relatives in these two countries to meet, leading many to relocate to Phuket.

Despite the benefits of these policies, concerns have been raised about the potential exploitation of the visa-free policy by illegal workers and criminals. However, Sarayuth believes that the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. He noted that the policy opens avenues to new markets and high-potential segments.

Adith also pointed out that not only foreigners, but Thai citizens as well, have exploited visa-free privileges and worked illegally in many countries. He suggested that the government consider implementing the policy on a case-by-case basis to ensure more effective results.

Adith also emphasized the importance of promoting second-tier destinations that have the potential to welcome foreign tourists but lack sufficient demand. He suggested that six airports in six provinces could be upgraded using the visa-free policy. These include U-Tapao Airport in Chon Buri, Khon Kaen, Udon Thani, Chiang Rai, Krabi, and Hat Yai in Songkhla, reported Bangkok Post.

Adith cautioned that extending the period of stay might attract more grey business to Thailand and stressed the importance of preventive measures, such as criminal record checks before screening at immigration. He also suggested studying existing data of travellers to provide an appropriate period of stay for each nationality.

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Alex Morgan

Alex is a 42-year-old former corporate executive and business consultant with a degree in business administration. Boasting over 15 years of experience working in various industries, including technology, finance, and marketing, Alex has acquired in-depth knowledge about business strategies, management principles, and market trends. In recent years, Alex has transitioned into writing business articles and providing expert commentary on business-related issues. Fluent in English and proficient in data analysis, Alex strives to deliver well-researched and insightful content to readers, combining practical experience with a keen analytical eye to offer valuable perspectives on the ever-evolving business landscape.

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