Likely to have a major impact in pushing arrival numbers up for Thailand which in recent years has suffered of some significant wobbles over political developments, the Kingdom of Thailand made a surprise announcement regarding their Visa Waiver Program.
The Kingdom of Thailand sprung a surprise on their main competitors ahead of the upcoming ITB 2017 tourism fair in Berlin, when authorities announced that a further 21 countries are now exempt from visa requirements.
The original Visa Waiver Program will now at least stay in place until August of this year when a full assessment on its impact can be undertaken. The extension of the visa incentives for tourists for a further six months was proposed by the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, and was approved at the weekly cabinet meeting earlier this month.
The new period, lasting until August 31, means that travelers applying for tourist visas at Royal Thai Embassies or Thai Consulates abroad will not have to pay any fees for entry visas, while the fees for visas on arrival (VoA) have been reduced from 2,000 Baht to 1,000 Baht per person, another significant benefit for travelers choosing to spend their vacation time on Thai beaches.
Beneficiaries are key countries which also send tourists to the East African beaches where visa fees remain stubbornly in place in addition to hefty airport taxes levied on tourists when leaving the destinations.
Among the countries now exempted from visa for Thailand are, in alphabetical order: Andorra, Bulgaria, Bhutan, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, India, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.
With the gauntlet thrown down in a very public fashion, and aiming at carving out added percentages of the global holiday traffic, must East Africa go back to the drawing board and reconsider their own stand vis-a-vis visa requirements, as the diplomatic principle of reciprocity simply no longer works in the world of tourism, as negative examples, like the tit for tat between South Africa and Kenya last year amply demonstrates.