Visa fee exemptions aimed at wooing tourists

PHUKET CITY: Tourists from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan are being exempted from paying visa fees for Thailand as part of the ongoing attempt to revive tourism after the tsunami.

In addition to the government waiving the 1,000-baht visa fee until October this year, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is working with Thai Airways to put together a 3,500-baht mid-week package including roundtrip flights from Bangkok to Phuket or Krabi, two nights’ accommodation and airport transfers.

Hotels in Phuket, Phang Nga, Krabi and Trang are being invited to join the promotion.

Suwalai Pinpradab, Director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s office in Phuket, told the Gazette it was hoped these initiatives would attract more mainland Chinese, Taiwanese and Hong Kong tourists to the Andaman provinces.

She said, “Around 60 hotels have expressed an interest in taking part in the promotion, which we plan to market with the slogan ‘Beach basking, bargain shopping’.”

Kalayapha Panich, Thai Airways’ Phuket-based District Sales Manager for Upper-Southern Thailand, said the promotion was currently being considered by senior managers. It is hoped that everything will be finalised by next month, so that TAT national head Juthamas Siriwan will be able to launch the package then in China.

K. Kalayapha said, “I think these packages will increase the number of tourists who come here, especially if they are attractive and marketed well.”

However, one hotel manager is not so confident that waiving visa fees and offering cut-price packages will be enough to tempt back large numbers of tourists.

Claude Sauter, recently appointed Resident Manager of the Cape Panwa Hotel, said, “Promotions may help bring people back, but many hotels here – and Thai Airways too – did lots of promotions in Europe and Asia after the tsunami, and those don’t seem to have succeeded in attracting back the tourists so far.

“That said, I do think this promotion is a good thing, but it has to be done in conjunction with reconstruction projects and restoring the infrastructure, and installing a tsunami warning system.

“I really don’t think one promotion alone will make that much of a difference; other things have to be done too.”

Mr Sauter added that his hotel had reduced its rates and is currently trying to market Phuket to the domestic market, for instance promoting weekend breaks in Phuket to Thais living in Bangkok, and trying to persuade Bangkok-based companies to hold conferences and seminars on the island.

He said, “This is what we’re trying to do with the domestic market, as we know the overseas market will take some more time to come back, especially now that we’re in the low season.”

Phuket News
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