Thailand’s Visa Rules Attract Chinese Tourists in Challenging Time

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Skift Take

Thailand is cheap enough and close enough for Chinese visitors
that its current instability is not the issue it has become for
long-haul travelers (with or without a plunging ruble).

— Jason Clampet

The ruble’s fall by almost half in the past six months has kept
wealthy Russians from their shopping trips to St. Moritz. It has also
turned the flow of vacationers from the country to Thailand to a
trickle.

The Land of Smiles recorded a fall in tourists last year for the
first time since the global financial crisis after visitors from Russia,
Thailand’s third-biggest source,fell for nine straight months through
December as sanctions were widened and the ruble slumped.

Admittedly, the military coup in Thailand on May 22 also scared
tourists away. Martial law is still in place, which makes getting travel
insurance very hard, if not impossible; several tourist murders at
popular beach resorts have further muddied the country’s appeal.

Fortunately for Thailand, where tourism accounts for about 10 percent
of gross domestic product, the Chinese have been flocking to its
temples and beaches in greater numbers. Visitors from the mainland
rebounded in the last three months, and surged 87 percent in December
from the previous year. Tourists from China made up about 19 percent of
the almost 25 million visitors last year, the biggest share, while those
from Russia accounted for about 7 percent of the total.

The military-led Thai government, struggling to revive the economy
with exports slumping and investors wary, offered a three-month visa-fee
waiver for Chinese and Taiwanese tourists last August. It’s also
promoting the country as a medical tourism destination.

It will need all the help it can get: tourists from Russia will drop
by 20 percent to 40 percent this year to all destinations, Yakov Mirkin,
head of the Department of International Capital Markets at the
Institute of World Economy and International Relations at the Russian
Academy of Sciences, said in an op-ed this month.

Fortunately, Chinese outbound tourism is forecast to grow up to 20
percent this year from last year, when the number of Chinese traveling
abroad reached 109 million. Time to extend that visa- fee waiver.

This article was written by Sharon Chen from Bloomberg and was legally licensed  – Skift

via Blogger http://ift.tt/160xh56

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