Thailand Announces Free-Visa Scheme for Japanese Passengers to Further Drive Tourism

At the end of September, Thailand launched a free visa scheme for Chinese and Kazakh travelers, expecting the scheme to drive revenue of the tourism industry in the final quarter of 2023.

However, the actual outcome, as in earlier December, did not seem to meet the expectations as the number of Chinese tourists from 1 January to 30 November only emerged for around 3 million compared to an earlier expectation of 4 to 4.4 million travelers.

This led to another free visa scheme as the Thai government set to deploy a 3-Year free visa scheme for Japan, starting from 1 January 2024 to 31 December 2026.

Mr. Kerati Kijmanawat, Director of Airports of Thailand Public Company Limited (SET: AOT) stated that he expected passengers in 2024 to increase to around 120-130 million, a slight increase compared to the year 2023 of 100 million passengers. The number is expected to get close to the year 2019 prior to the pandemic, as in the present, the number of passengers in domestic flights came back to normal stage or around 95% of 2019, while the international flights was around 70-75%.

Mr. Kerati believed that in 2024, foreign passengers will be more interested in traveling, but airlines are not yet ready to provide services, especially in China. China airline markets only recovered for 60% of the number in 2019, fairly low compared to other countries, so the country needed time to get back to where it left off.

However, a free visa scheme from Thailand has led some new Chinese airlines to already submit for the permission to land in the country. The interest for travelers from Europe and Russia in coming to Thailand is more than ever. This boosts the company’s confidence in 2024 that the situation among airline tourism will be back to normal.