Thailand tourist arrivals up nearly 40%, new six-months visa to come

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Suvarnabhumi lines
Queues at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, the main entry gate to Thailand

Tourist arrivals to Thailand in July 2015 rose nearly 40 per cent year-on-year, the tourism minister said on August 5, as the industry continued to bounce back from a sharp fall in 2014 during months of street protests and a military coup.

Tourism is one of the few bright spots in an economy that continues to underperform more than a year after the military seized power in May 2014. The sector accounts for about 10 per cent of Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, and the government expects a record number of visitors in 2015.

Thailand received 2.64 million visitors in July, Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul told reporters in Bangkok, an increase of 38 per cent year-on-year. The total number of visitors in the first seven months of 2015 stood at 17.5 million, up 31.6 per cent year-on-year. Tourism revenue was $23.3 billion, up 30.6 per cent year-on-year, according to ministry statistics. The government expects a record 30 million tourists this year, generating up to $63 billion in tourism revenue, as the high season falls in the second half of the year.

The majority of tourists in Thailand in the period were from China. Malaysia and Japan also rank among the biggest sources of visitors in 2015, the ministry says.

Thai visa_Arno Maierbrugger
A new multiple-entry visa is mainly aimed at Chinese and Indian visitors who currently need q visa-on-arrival, but could also ease bureaucratic burden for long-timers in Thailand © Arno Maierbrugger
New six-month visa

To boost tourism numbers further, and to make it easier for those wanting to stay a longer period in the country, visitors can now look forward to a new six-month multiple-entry visa for nationals “from any country” as early as October, following the approval by Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha earlier this week.

It is understood that the new visa – which will cost 5,000 baht ($142) is designed to allow visitors a 60-day stay, then have them leaving Thailand to a neighbouring country and re-enter for another 60 days and repeat that once more until the six-months period is over. It is not clear whether such visas are meant to be used consecutively, which would bring with it an option for many long-term visitors to extend their stay up to one year and longer as it is an alternative to the presently widely-used double-entry tourist visas which are also good for 180 days and slightly more expensive (2,200 baht for the visa and two extensions for 1,900 baht each = 6,000 baht [$172], but only one border run needed).

Currently, citizens of 50 countries can enter Thailand without a visa. Arriving by air gives a stay of 30 days, arriving overland gives a stay of 15 days except for citizens of G7 countries who get 30 days when arriving overland too. These entries can be extended at Thai immigration for 30 days at a cost of 1,900 baht. Repeated in-and-out visa-free visits to prolong a stay in Thailand are technically not allowed – i.e. are at the discretion if the immigration officer, whereby the rules are not entirely transparent and are also subject to frequent changes.

Those who will likely benefit from the new multiple-entry visa are those who want to use a tourist visa and make a trip every 60 days to explore neighbouring countries, as well as long-timers under 50 years of age and retirees. Long-timers under 50, if they do not work, have currently no option for a long-term visa unless they marry a Thai or have a child with a Thai. Many retirees stay in Thailand for the northern hemisphere’s winter months, rent a home and then return to their country in summer.

Others who might benefit are nationals of 19 nations, including China and India, who are currently required to pay about 1,000 baht to get a single-entry, 15-day visa. They will benefit from a multiple-entry visa if they intend to make side trips to other countries in Asia and use Thailand as a base, but should make more than 5 exits and entries to make the 5,000-baht multiple-entry visa worthwhile.

However, some critics fear that this new visa could me misused by foreigners from neighbouring countries to work in Thailand illegally or pursue other non-touristic activities. For example, citizens of Cambodia and Myanmar are currently visa-exempt for just 14 days, the latter for arrivals by air only. And it remains to be seen whether the new visa will be granted for countries whose nationals neither qualify for a visa-exempt stamp nor a visa on arrival, but have to present regular visitor visa prearranged at a Thai embassy abroad – among them many African, Central American, Middle Eastern (non-Gulf) and Central Asian countries.

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Queues at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, the main entry gate to Thailand

Tourist arrivals to Thailand in July 2015 rose nearly 40 per cent year-on-year, the tourism minister said on August 5, as the industry continued to bounce back from a sharp fall in 2014 during months of street protests and a military coup.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Suvarnabhumi lines
Queues at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, the main entry gate to Thailand

Tourist arrivals to Thailand in July 2015 rose nearly 40 per cent year-on-year, the tourism minister said on August 5, as the industry continued to bounce back from a sharp fall in 2014 during months of street protests and a military coup.

Tourism is one of the few bright spots in an economy that continues to underperform more than a year after the military seized power in May 2014. The sector accounts for about 10 per cent of Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, and the government expects a record number of visitors in 2015.

Thailand received 2.64 million visitors in July, Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul told reporters in Bangkok, an increase of 38 per cent year-on-year. The total number of visitors in the first seven months of 2015 stood at 17.5 million, up 31.6 per cent year-on-year. Tourism revenue was $23.3 billion, up 30.6 per cent year-on-year, according to ministry statistics. The government expects a record 30 million tourists this year, generating up to $63 billion in tourism revenue, as the high season falls in the second half of the year.

The majority of tourists in Thailand in the period were from China. Malaysia and Japan also rank among the biggest sources of visitors in 2015, the ministry says.

Thai visa_Arno Maierbrugger
A new multiple-entry visa is mainly aimed at Chinese and Indian visitors who currently need q visa-on-arrival, but could also ease bureaucratic burden for long-timers in Thailand © Arno Maierbrugger
New six-month visa

To boost tourism numbers further, and to make it easier for those wanting to stay a longer period in the country, visitors can now look forward to a new six-month multiple-entry visa for nationals “from any country” as early as October, following the approval by Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha earlier this week.

It is understood that the new visa – which will cost 5,000 baht ($142) is designed to allow visitors a 60-day stay, then have them leaving Thailand to a neighbouring country and re-enter for another 60 days and repeat that once more until the six-months period is over. It is not clear whether such visas are meant to be used consecutively, which would bring with it an option for many long-term visitors to extend their stay up to one year and longer as it is an alternative to the presently widely-used double-entry tourist visas which are also good for 180 days and slightly more expensive (2,200 baht for the visa and two extensions for 1,900 baht each = 6,000 baht [$172], but only one border run needed).

Currently, citizens of 50 countries can enter Thailand without a visa. Arriving by air gives a stay of 30 days, arriving overland gives a stay of 15 days except for citizens of G7 countries who get 30 days when arriving overland too. These entries can be extended at Thai immigration for 30 days at a cost of 1,900 baht. Repeated in-and-out visa-free visits to prolong a stay in Thailand are technically not allowed – i.e. are at the discretion if the immigration officer, whereby the rules are not entirely transparent and are also subject to frequent changes.

Those who will likely benefit from the new multiple-entry visa are those who want to use a tourist visa and make a trip every 60 days to explore neighbouring countries, as well as long-timers under 50 years of age and retirees. Long-timers under 50, if they do not work, have currently no option for a long-term visa unless they marry a Thai or have a child with a Thai. Many retirees stay in Thailand for the northern hemisphere’s winter months, rent a home and then return to their country in summer.

Others who might benefit are nationals of 19 nations, including China and India, who are currently required to pay about 1,000 baht to get a single-entry, 15-day visa. They will benefit from a multiple-entry visa if they intend to make side trips to other countries in Asia and use Thailand as a base, but should make more than 5 exits and entries to make the 5,000-baht multiple-entry visa worthwhile.

However, some critics fear that this new visa could me misused by foreigners from neighbouring countries to work in Thailand illegally or pursue other non-touristic activities. For example, citizens of Cambodia and Myanmar are currently visa-exempt for just 14 days, the latter for arrivals by air only. And it remains to be seen whether the new visa will be granted for countries whose nationals neither qualify for a visa-exempt stamp nor a visa on arrival, but have to present regular visitor visa prearranged at a Thai embassy abroad – among them many African, Central American, Middle Eastern (non-Gulf) and Central Asian countries.

A comprehensive 280 page updated overview on investment opportunities in the ten-member bloc of ASEAN.


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