BANGKOK (The Nation/Asia News Network): The Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) has urged the Department of Consular Affairs to shorten the visa approval period for Chinese tourists from up to 15 working days to facilitate tour groups from China that wish to visit Thailand.
“The current approval period is too long. Before the Covid-19 outbreak, it took only 3-5 working days to approve Chinese tourists’ visas,” ATTA president Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn said on Thursday (May 25).
He added that Thailand recorded only 1 million Chinese visitors in the first five months of this year, an underwhelming number that is unlikely to meet the association’s earlier estimate of 2 million Chinese tourists in the first half of 2023.
He said the department must remove unnecessary processes that slow down the flow of tourists, or Thailand would not be able to meet the goal set by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) of welcoming 5 million Chinese tourists by the end of this year
The TAT also estimated that revenue from Chinese tourists would amount to 446 billion baht.
“If the visa application period continues to take this long, we will see fewer tour groups heading to Thailand and will miss that target. Most of the groups would be FIT (foreign independent tours), which are much smaller,” he said.
“Furthermore, a short visa application period would also help last-minute tour buyers make a decision to visit Thailand.”
Statistics show that only 111,997 Chinese tourists entered as group tours from January to May this year, or about 10% of total Chinese visitors. This is a significant decrease from the 2019 statistics, which saw about 1 million Chinese tourists arriving per month, 60% of them entering on group tours.
Sisdivachr said an overhaul in the visa application period to reduce unnecessary steps and shorten the waiting time will help boost the number of Chinese tourists in the second half of the year.
“Our estimate is for an average of 600,000 Chinese tourists visiting Thailand per month from June onward, or 3.6 million people for the remainder of the year, enabling us to get closer to the 5-million target,” he said.
Earlier this week, TAT deputy governor Tanes Petsuwan raised a similar issue with the Foreign Ministry, saying that the ministry’s e-visa application platform is a chokepoint that hinders the influx of Chinese tourists and needs to be urgently addressed.
Thailand would need to process 10,000 to 20,000 Chinese visas per day in order to meet the 5 million visitors target, but the e-visa platform can process only 84,000 applicants per month, said Tanes.