Thailand’s tourism industry calls for eased travel restrictions to boost numbersLegacy

Faced with intense competition from fellow Southeast Asian countries, Thailand’s tourism industry has called on the government to ease travel restrictions and promote cross-border travel. The appeal comes as Malaysia is seen to be catching up with Thailand’s tourism numbers.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin embarked on a tour of three southern provinces to boost both trade and tourism.

Songchai Mungprasithichai, who serves as the president of the Songkhla Tourism Promotion Association, noted that the temporary suspension of the TM6 immigration form requirement at the Sadao checkpoint has already resulted in a daily increase of Malaysian arrivals by 10 to 20% since it was implemented in November of last year.

Over the Chinese New Year holiday, daily visits by Malaysian tourists to Hat Yai and Songkhla exceeded 10,000, pushing hotel occupancy rates to a robust 80 to 90%. Once the holiday period ended, the daily arrival rate dropped to a more typical 5,000.

Songchai proposed a suspension of the TM6 form at all major southern immigration checkpoints, believing it would significantly enhance cross-border travel. He also stressed the need for the government to concentrate on resolving conflicts and fostering peace in the southern provinces. This, he argued, would unlock new tourism opportunities that are currently stifled by an emergency decree, reported Bangkok Post.

According to Songchai, the decree undermines the confidence of foreign tourists, particularly those unfamiliar with the southern region, such as tourists from China, the UK, and Europe. This is in contrast to domestic tourists or individuals from Malaysia and Singapore, who are more aware of the situation.

Thailand tourism

In 2023, Malaysia saw 26 million foreign arrivals, closing in on Thailand’s 28 million. Songchai credited Malaysia’s robust growth to a strong resumption of flights, a reputation for safety, and convenient transport. He also noted how Singaporeans can easily visit Malaysia via border checkpoints and that the country offers visa-free entry to Chinese and Indian tourists, a tactic Thailand also employs.

Bo Sun, chief marketing officer of online travel platform Trip.com, suggested that due to a permanent visa-free agreement commencing from March 1, Thailand should continue to see steady arrivals from China.

Recently, a live-stream collaboration between Trip.com and the Tourism Authority of Thailand aimed at Chinese viewers yielded over 100 million baht (US$ 2,780,868) in gross merchandise value. This indicates a strong interest in Thailand, particularly for future festivals such as Songkran, said Sun.

Last year, Bangkok was the most popular destination in Southeast Asia on the platform, with Phuket and Chiang Mai also ranking in the top 10. Bookings for Thailand also surged 110% during the Chinese New Year.

Despite the visa-free programme potentially leading to an increase in Thai travellers to China, Sun believes it would be difficult to surpass Japan – the top destination for Thai tourists.

“We are optimistic about the continued recovery of the tourism industry globally, especially in Asia, where there have been many visa-free travel agreements made in recent months,” Sun concluded.

The story Thailand’s tourism industry calls for eased travel restrictions to boost numbers as seen on Thaiger News.

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Author: Alex Morgan