The tourism industry plays a crucial role as one of the major contributors to foreign exchange earnings and can act as a catalyst for national economic growth, particularly in reducing unemployment rates and increasing productivity within a country. This is true for Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand.
According to The Nation, Prommin Lertsuridej, secretary-general to Thailand's prime minister, announced on Monday that the country will seek support from neighboring nations to allow tourists to travel freely among five ASEAN countries after obtaining a visa from one of them.
The other countries are Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Malaysia. Specifically, Vietnam has requested Thailand's assistance in developing its tourism sector. Prommin also highlighted Thailand's close relations with Cambodia and Laos and expressed confidence that both countries would not reject the idea.
He also mentioned that discussions were underway with the European Union (EU) to establish reciprocal visa-free access. If the discussions with the four ASEAN countries are positive, the Thai government will use the agreement in negotiations with the EU, hoping to secure Schengen visa waivers.
Mr. Prommin highlighted Thailand's policy success in waiving visas for foreign tourists, which has had a positive impact on the increase in foreign visits. He revealed that Thailand welcomed 28 million tourists last year despite a target of 25 million visits, exceeding expectations.
At a meeting in Ranong on 23 January, Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin instructed the Thai Ministry of Tourism and Sports to arrange a meeting with tourism ministers from neighboring countries in the Mekong region to strengthen cooperation. The country's cabinet also approved plans to cooperate with neighboring countries to offer foreign tourists the opportunity to vacation without requiring additional visas.
According to government sources, several ASEAN leaders have told Srettha that they hope Thailand will serve as a hub to promote and encourage the region's tourism sector.
However, some experts have expressed doubts about whether these new measures will lead to long queues at arrival points.
Related to this, self-check-in kiosks have been installed at six AOT international airports, including Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Hat Yai and Chiang Rai, according to Vietnam Plus. This will allow passengers to check in up to six hours before their flight. Kirati Kijmanawat, director of AOT, mentioned this when discussing Thailand's readiness for the increased number of passengers during the Chinese New Year celebration.
Suvarnabhumi Airport has 210 self-check-in kiosks, while Don Mueang Airport has 50 kiosks. He added that this service allows passengers to save time and avoid long queues as the process takes only a few minutes. Currently, about 17% of passengers use the self-check-in system. AOT plans to increase the usage rate to 50%.