The popular tourist destination of Phuket is on the cusp of a significant increase in Chinese and Kazakhstani visitors, thanks to a new visa-free policy set to take effect next week. The policy, unveiled in the Royal Gazette on Tuesday, grants 30-day visa-free stays for nationals from both countries, starting from Monday and extending until February 29.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is making concerted efforts to ensure a warm welcome to these tourists. An inaugural ceremony, marking the arrival of the first visa-free flights from China and Kazakhstan, will be attended by the deputy governor of the TAT and a representative from the Phuket TAT office. This information was shared by Khongsak Khuphongsakorn, the chair of Phuket’s Chamber of Commerce.
In light of these developments, Khongsak is optimistic about the potential benefits this five-month visa scheme will bring to the island’s tourism industry. He anticipates a surge in visitors from both countries, particularly China, due to the simplified entry requirements and the convenience they provide for prospective tourists.
Hospitality businesses are gearing up to accommodate the expected influx. The prospect of increased Chinese visitors is seen as a significant step towards the industry’s recovery. Khongsak mentioned that Chinese tourist numbers have already risen to 30% of pre-pandemic levels, reported Bangkok Post.
The first week of this month has seen a noticeable increase in hotel reservations, a trend Khongsak attributes to the high season and the island’s vegetarian festival. He is hopeful this upward trajectory will continue.
Thaneth Tantipiriyakij, president of the Phuket Tourist Association, also shares this positive outlook, expecting the recovery rate to double. He believes the higher ticket prices following the visa-free scheme announcement may attract higher-quality tourists from China.
However, Thaneth expressed a need for further cooperation between the Chinese and Thai governments, specifically a give-to-go (G2G) plan to foster tourism on the island.
On the topic of Kazakhstani tourists, he voiced concerns that the 250,000 tourists expected this year by the TAT may instead opt for Vietnam, which has implemented a similar visa-free scheme and offers direct flights via Vietnamese carriers.
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