Indians visiting Thailand from November 10 to May 10 next year will not require any visa, a move tour operators and airlines said would boost travel to that country during the forthcoming year-end holiday window as well as during off season.
Thailand has been a favourite international destination for Kolkatans and the visa exemption will attract even more tourists from the city, said tour operators.
The Prime Minister of Thailand, Srettha Thavisin, has told reporters that travellers from India and Taiwan will enjoy visa-free entry to Thailand from November 10 to May 10. The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting.
Sources in the Tourism Authority of Thailand said the validity of the stay without visa would be 30 days. That means a tourist from India can visit Thailand with a valid passport and return ticket during the period.
Earlier, Sri Lanka had announced a similar visa exemption for Indians.
“The visa exemption is aimed at boosting tourism in Thailand,” said a source in Thai tourism. They said that this year, till September, around 1.2 million tourists visited Thailand from India. The number was around 2 million in a year before the Covid pandemic.
When international travel resumed, post-Covid, not many people were visiting Thailand because of the restrictions that still remained.
The Thai government started withdrawing the restrictions in May 2022, when they exempted fully vaccinated travellers from getting quarantined at a hotel for a day after arrival.
Travel to Thailand has picked up since, said Kolkata airport officials. Now, Kolkata has six daily flights to Thailand. The airlines that fly on the Kolkata-Bangkok route are Thai Airways, Thai AirAsia, IndiGo, Air India Express, SpiceJet and Bhutan Airlines, said an airport official.
Tour operators said an Indian applying for a Thai visa has to spend Rs 3,000 and need a balance of Rs 70,000 in his or her account. It takes three to five working days to get the visa application processed.
Thailand offers a visa-on-arrival facility, too. However, a traveller has to pay around Rs 5,000 to get a visa on arrival, tour operators said.
“The visa exemption will enhance traffic to Thailand, even during the off-season. We are already getting queries from people who want to go for the year-end holiday (a peak season),” said Anil Punjabi, national committee member, Travel Agents Federation of India, representing the eastern region.
“With no visa required, we expect many tourists who are planning Christmas and New Year-eve travel to popular domestic destinations to travel to Thailand,” said Punjabi. “Also, there are many travellers who plan weekend tours in the last minute. We are expecting many of them to visit Thailand.”
Airlines, too, are expecting a surge in passengers after the announcement.
An official of one airline said flights from Kolkata to Bangkok are now 60 to 70 per full on a average. “With the visa exemption, we are expecting this to increase to 80 to 85 per cent,” the official said.
According to travel industry sources, several airlines are offering return tickets on the Kolkata-Bangkok route for less than Rs 20,000, which is cheaper than some domestic destinations during peak holiday seasons.
Thai Airways was offering a return fare of Rs 20,700 till October, which the airline has extended further, said tour operators.