PHUKET: Tourism operators serving visitors from Taiwan and mainland China have been advised to prepare for an influx of arrivals during an upcoming 90-day visa-fee exemption.

In a bid to revitalize the tourism industry after the political crisis, the National Council for Peace and Order announced that visa fees would be waived for tourists from those markets.

“Numerous Chinese from the mainland and Taiwan are expected to come to Thailand after the government announced the visa-fee exemption,” said Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents.

He said a lot of tour operators in mainland China and Taiwan had stopped selling packages to Thailand and waited for special offers from the Thai government like this one.

The scheme had been meant to run from August 1 to October 31 but Sek Wannamethee, director-general of the Department of Information at the Foreign Ministry, said on Friday that it had been delayed and was expected to start this week.

China has been Thailand’s No 1 source market for years, with about 4 million Chinese visiting the Kingdom last year.

However, international arrivals during the first seven months of this year plunged 10 per cent to 13.6mn compared with 14mn for the same period last year as a result of the political instability.

Anuparb Kasensuwan, director-general of the Tourism Department, said that revenue from tourism in general declined 8 percent to 630 billion baht in that period.

Anuparb said it was hoped arrivals would increase in October, the first month of the peak tourism season.

There have been signs the sector is recovering, with 1.9mn tourists visiting the country in July – an improvement on recent months.

— The Nation