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Thailand raises Indian target to 2.4 million with visa-free policy

Picture courtesy of Bangkok Post

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has revised its target for Indian tourist arrivals from 2.3 to 2.4 million this year, driven by the recently introduced visa-free policy for Indian nationals. This visa waiver programme, which allows 60-day visa-free stays, extends to citizens of 93 countries and will last until November 2024.

TAT Governor Thapanee Kiatphaibool announced that Indian arrivals are expected to surpass 1 million by the end of this month, nearly hitting half of the original target of 2.08 million set for the year. The agency’s revised target aims to help the government meet its ambitious goal of attracting 36.7 million tourists and generating 3.5 trillion baht in revenue this year, benefiting from steady tourism flows even during the low season.

Indian tourist arrivals this year are projected to set a new record, exceeding the 1.9 million visitors welcomed in 2019, Thapanee stated.

Speculation among tourism operators suggests that the Indian government might consider a reciprocal visa exemption for Thai tourists. However, Thapanee clarified that this information remains unconfirmed.

“In principle, two-way visa-free travel would accelerate travel demand in both nations.”

Currently, Thais can apply for an e-visa to visit India for up to one month.

Free visa

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin indicated earlier this year that the government would continue negotiations with the Indian government to establish a permanent reciprocal visa-free scheme, following successful cooperation with the Chinese government.

Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, Deputy Governor for International Marketing in Asia and the South Pacific at TAT, revealed plans for a roadshow in August across four second-tier Indian cities: Lucknow, Chandigarh, Bangalore, and Ahmedabad, to attract prospective tourists.

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“The TAT’s New Delhi office will focus on targeting small families and groups of friends to enjoy recreational activities in Thailand.”

Indian tourists’ average spending per trip has increased to 40,000 baht (US$1,080) this year, up from 38,000 baht (US$1,030) in 2023. Flight connections between Thailand and India have recovered to 80% of pre-pandemic levels.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand committed to increasing the number of seats by 7,000 per week between Thailand and India starting in November.

The Airlines Association of Thailand reported that the seat quotas on Thailand-India routes are predominantly held by the national flag carrier, Thai Airways International, with other airlines struggling to capture a significant market share.

Suksit Suvunditkul, President of the Southern Chapter of the Thai Hotels Association, highlighted that Indian tourists remain one of the top three markets for Phuket, with consistent arrivals throughout the year, reported Bangkok Post.

“Tourists from this market visit Thailand for various reasons, including meeting or incentive groups, wedding groups, and leisure family tourism.”

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