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Thailand looks to India to boost tourism recovery after waiving visa for Chinese visitors

BANGKOK – Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin is targeting tourists from India to boost tourism, even as the Southeast Asian nation plans visa exemptions for travelers from China and Kazakhstan during the busy holiday season.

Srettha said he would make a trip to India this year with plans to meet his counterpart, Narendra Modi, and discuss increasing the frequency of flights between the two countries, including more services from flag carrier Thai Airways.

“Many flights are still not arriving from India due to internal politics,” Srettha said in an interview during a media forum on Monday. “I hope to visit you before the end of the year to negotiate on the issue.”

Thailand could also consider other measures to boost Indian tourist arrivals.

These include offering tax exemptions on imported jewelery for Indian weddings held in Thailand, a popular destination for such ceremonies, he said.

Since Indian tourists can already easily obtain Thai visas, a visa waiver may not be necessary, he said.

Srettha’s comment came a week after his cabinet approved temporary visa exemptions for Chinese and Kazakh tourists ahead of the peak season.

Tourists from the two countries can enter Thailand without a visa between September 25 and February 29, and can stay for up to 30 days at a time.

The visa waiver program is expected to generate 35 billion baht (S$1.34 billion) from Chinese tourists, Srettha said during the forum.

Thailand has been stepping up measures to boost the travel industry, a key growth driver for Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy.

It aims to increase tourism revenue to pre-Covid-19 levels, with a target of 3.1 trillion baht in 2024.

Thailand has welcomed 18.5 million foreign tourists so far in 2023, with up to 28 million expected by the end of the year.

Revenue from foreign travelers amounted to 775 billion baht as of September 11, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

Before the pandemic, the country received a record 40 million tourists in 2019. BLOOMBERG

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