PHUKET TOWN: The tourism industry will be able to absorb increased visa rates and still lift visitor numbers, according to spokespeople for tour operators and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). Napasorn Kakai, Deputy Director of the local TAT, told the Gazette that any negative effects would be short-term and would end once tour operators absorbed the cost in their packages. The cost of most visas to Thailand will triple or quadruple from January 1. (For details see https://thethaiger.com/news/index.asp?Id=2892 .) K. Napasorn linked the rises with the quest for tourists from the high end of the market – people with enough money to be able to disregard a huge price hike for a visa. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra predicted this week that income from tourism in Thailand would treble within the next five years. Campaigns aimed at attracting well-off, long-stay visitors have already begun. Leenawat Roonguthai, Operations Manager of Sea Tours Co Ltd, told the Gazette that he did not think the rise in the cost of visas would affect tourist numbers. “Most tourists who come to Phuket have high spending power,” he said. “Although the visa fees will go up next year, those tourists who want to come to Phuket will not mind paying extra.” Sunee Punsanat, of travel agent Pacific Leisure (Phuket) Co Ltd, said that the baht still made travel to Thailand an attractive proposition, even with the increased costs for visas.
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