Thailand would offer free visas and longer passport stamps under proposals to be submitted to the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration next week.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand and tourism-industry leaders agreed on five proposals to submit to the CCSA at its June 17 meeting, including termination of the Thailand Pass registration system, ending mask requirements and temperature checks, and allowing normal hours at nightlife venues.
The major proposals are ones Thailand used during 2021 and before: Allowing longer stays for those entering the country on visa-waiver passport stamps, and waiving fees for visas obtained at Thai embassies overseas.
Thailand currently allows visitors from 56 countries to enter the country by air with only their passport and stay 30 days. Under the proposal, that would be extended to 45 days. The same extension was implemented in the first half of 2021 when all visitors had to endure two weeks of quarantine.
Those who don’t qualify for the “visa-waiver” stamps would be eligible for free visas at Thai embassies in their home countries. Visa-on-arrival fees of 1,500 baht would remain in place.
The free-visa promotion has been used countless times over the years, but only for single-entry visas. Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, president of the Phuket Tourist Association, suggested, this time, multiple-entry visas should be made free as well so as to encourage visitors from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.
The motivation for the relaxed visa rules clearly is money. The TAT said average spending has jumped this year from 47,000 baht a trip to 77,000 baht, reflecting longer stays in the kingdom.
Both tourism operators and the TAT want to make it easier for tourists to stay longer.
“The longer they stay, the more they can spend more locally,” said Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association.
Both proposals – as well as the scrapping of Thailand Pass – likely will be approved next week, but the CCSA is unlikely to reject the tourism industry’s other proposals: Ending all mask mandates, eliminating temperature checks at businesses and allowing bars and clubs to return to 2019 operating hours.
The masking rules in particular anger tourism leaders, arguing they’re putting Thailand at a competitive disadvantage.
Executives who met with the TAT said masks could still be suggested for congested spaces or indoors, but private businesses, such as hotels or restaurants, would be left to decide for themselves whether to require employees to mask up.
As for temperature checks, they’re pointless and annoying, as they’ve never been effective in determining if someone is infected with Covid-19.