The Thai government needs to speed up work to establish a single visa among Asean members and the 10-country group’s six dialogue partners to enhance tourism within Asia, according to former tourism minister Weerasak Kowsurat.
“The presence of single visa in Asean that covers 10 countries plus six partners – China, South Korea, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand – would be a big boon to intra-Asian tourism,” said Mr Weerasak, who is now the director of the International Institute for Trade and Development (ITD).
“The move will increase the free flow of visitors within the region, particularly visitors from China, and reinforce the government’s policy to raise income from the service sector” A recent report by the China Tourism Academy (CTA) estimated that as many as 54 million Chinese travellers would go abroad this year, up from 47 million in 2009.
The UN World Tourism Organisation estimates that China will be the world’s fourth-largest source of outbound tourists by 2020, with 100 million overseas visits. Spotting the huge market potential, many countries are striving to lure more free-spending Chinese visitors.
The Asean Economic Community (AEC) is supposed to take effect in 2015, but members have yet to settle an agreement to introduce a single visa to Asean for travellers from outside the bloc. Citizens of Asean countries can travel visa-free within the bloc.