On January 29th, 2024, Thai national media stated that the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) requested the Thai government to extend the visa-free stay duration to 90 days for long-haul tourists, including those from the United States and Europe, to elevate long-haul national revenue to 40% in 2024.
Mr. Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, the TAT deputy governor for Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas, emphasized that longer-duration visas would contribute to an increase in the average length of stay and maximize spending per trip.
Thailand, at present, extends tourist visas on arrival to nationals of over 60 countries, including the US, the UK, Germany, France, and Scandinavian nations. Most of these, however, require a trip to Immigration for their extension, the proposal would be for a program similar to Russia currently in which arrivals from certain countries would automatically get longer stays upon arrival in Thailand.
Previously, most visitors were eligible for a 30-day stay before requiring a visa application.
Siripakorn noted the success of the extended visa program with Russian tourists, who were temporarily granted 90-day stays last November 2023. Over 100,000 foreign tourists applied for a visa allowing a 60-day stay in Thailand in 2023, with a majority coming from the US, the UK, Sweden, and Germany.
Anticipating positive economic impacts, Siripakorn estimated that extending stays could generate at least a million room nights nationwide at hotels.
The TAT also has sought approval from the National Tourism Policy Committee for other traveler-friendly measures to be extended until the year’s end.
These measures included the suspension of TM6 forms at Thai-Malaysia border crossings, a 30-day visa-free stay for Kazakh tourists, and the continuation of the 90-day visa-free stay for Russians.
Siripakorn outlined the TAT’s goal of attracting 10 million long-haul tourists in 2024, constituting nearly 30% of the expected 35 million foreign tourists. Before the pandemic in 2019, Thailand hosted 9 million long-haul tourists, contributing 23% to 40 million total foreign visitors, with their revenue representing 33% of the 1.9 trillion baht in total.
Despite geopolitical tensions and economic challenges, Siripakorn expressed confidence in overseas tourism remaining crucial for European travelers. Long-haul flights to Thailand have improved to 80% of pre-pandemic levels this winter, contributing to an anticipated increase in arrivals.
The TAT planned to encourage international airlines to establish new routes to less congested airports in destinations such as Surat Thani, U-tapao in Chon Buri, Krabi, and Chiang Mai.
Siripakorn expected some major markets, including Russia, the US, the UK, and Germany, to surpass the 1 million tourist mark this year, with Russia potentially reaching 2 million tourists.
At this point, it’s important to note this is only a proposal and needs approval from the Thai Cabinet to be processed and take effect.