Thailand's cabinet on Tuesday approved a measure to waive for two months fees paid by visitors for visas on arrival, in a bid to boost a lucrative industry hit by a drop in visitors from China, its biggest market.
The fee of 2,000 baht will be waived between December 1 and January 31 for travelers from 21 countries including China, India and Saudi Arabia, and regions like Taiwan, government spokesman Puttiphong Punnakan told reporters.
The scheme is expected to increase tourist numbers by at least 30 percent during the period, he said. In September, overall tourist arrivals rose just 2.1 percent from a year earlier, but arrivals from China fell almost 15 percent following a boat accident in July, which killed 47 Chinese tourists, making it Thailand's worst tourist-related disaster in years.
Therefore, the specific aim of this measure is to draw foreign travelers to Thailand during the peak season after the recent sharp decline in Chinese tourists, who make up roughly one-third of arrivals.
Last year, Chinese visitors made up nearly a third of the record 35.38 million arrivals in Thailand.
Tourism receipts account for about 12 percent of Southeast Asia's second-largest economy, making it one of the most important drivers of its growth.
The tourism ministry has forecast 37.5 million foreign tourists this year, up about 6 percent.