SONGKHLA (THAILAND) —Tour companies in Thailand complained Friday (May 26) that a new visa requirement for frequent visitors arriving by road or rail is affecting the number of tourists from Singapore.
Mr Anuwat Phetwarothai, owner of AS Tour Co in Hat Yai district, said the regulation affects visitors arriving by land whose countries are not Thailand’s immediate neighbours.
He also said they must obtain a visa if their visits exceed three times a year.
The requirement however, does not apply to repeat visitors arriving by planes or ships.
“The ministerial regulation has no impact on Malaysians but it does affect Singaporeans, who are the main visitors to Songkhla, as well as Indonesians, whose numbers are increasing,” he said.
The negative impact on Hat Yai tourism is growing. It affected hotels, restaurants, tour guides and tour coach companies, he said.
“Singaporean tourists are main customers in Hat Yai and Songkhla. More of them arrive on buses rather than by planes. They come with their families for relaxation and shopping,” said Mr Anuwat.
At least 10 companies operate buses between Hat Yai and Singapore, with daily departures from Hat Yai around 1pm and 6pm. About 10 buses leave Hat Yai and the same number arrive from Singapore. The fare is about 900 baht (S$36.50).
The cost of a tourist visa for Thailand is at about S$60, or about 1,500 baht.
Mr Anuwat said the buses used to be packed with Singaporean tourists. A visitor from the Republic would usually spend an average of 3,500 baht a day, with overall monthly spending totalling around 26 million baht.
Local tour guide Withaya sae Lim said the average Singaporean tourist stayed between three and five days. They usually make 15 visits a year, but their numbers had dropped by 60 per cent, he said.
The new regulation also affected Indonesian tourists arriving by land, and they were a growing group of visitors, he added.
Dismissing tour operators’ concerns, Mr Panu Woramit, Hat Yai director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said the impact of the new regulation - announced in December - was “slight” and frequent visitors can easily apply for a visa at an embassy or consulate. BANGKOK POST