Call To Shorten Visa Approval As Chinese Tourist Arrivals Drop

The Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) has urged the Department of Consular Affairs to expedite the visa approval process for Chinese tourists.

They aim to reduce it from a maximum of 15 working days to better accommodate tour groups from China desiring to visit Thailand.

“The current approval period is too long. Before the Covid-19 outbreak, it took only 3-5 working days to approve Chinese tourists’ visas,” ATTA president Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn stated on Thursday.

He disclosed that Thailand only welcomed 1 million Chinese visitors in the initial five months of the current year, a disappointing figure that is likely to fall short of the association’s prior forecast of 2 million Chinese tourists for the first half of 2023.

He urged the department to eliminate unnecessary procedures that slow down the income of tourists, warning that Thailand may fail to achieve the target set by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to host 5 million Chinese tourists by the end of the year.

The TAT also projected that the expenditure of Chinese tourists could reach up to 446 billion baht.

“If the visa application period continues to take this long, we will see fewer tour groups heading to Thailand and will miss that target,” he claimed.

“Most of the groups would be FIT (foreign independent tours), which are much smaller,” he expressed. “Furthermore, a short visa application period would also help last-minute tour buyers make a decision to visit Thailand,” continued Mr Sisdivachr.

Data indicates that a mere 111,997 Chinese tourists visited as part of group tours from January to May this year, making up about 10% of total Chinese visitors.

This is a stark contrast to the 2019 data, which recorded about 1 million Chinese tourists per month, with 60% of them traveling in group tours.

Mr Sisdivachr suggested a revamp of the visa application process to minimize unnecessary steps and decrease the waiting period would enhance the volume of Chinese tourists in the latter half of the year.

“Our estimate is for an average of 600,000 Chinese tourists visiting Thailand per month from June onward, or 3.6 million people for the remainder of the year, enabling us to get closer to the 5-million target,” he commented.

Earlier this week, TAT’s deputy governor Tanes Petsuwan raised a similar concern with the Foreign Ministry, highlighting that the ministry’s e-visa application platform acts as a bottleneck restricting the inflow of Chinese tourists and needs urgent attention.

In order to attain the 5 million visitor target, Thailand would have to handle 10,000 to 20,000 Chinese visa applications daily, but the e-visa platform is capable of processing only 84,000 applications monthly, Tanes pointed out.