THAILAND has hiked its visa fee for Indian nationals, catching Thai sellers at IT&CMA by surprise while Indian MICE buyers, who are aware of the move, roundly criticise it.
Coming after a visa fee waiver from 2009 till March this year, implemented to mitigate the impact of Thailand’s political riots, Indian buyers warn the hike will impact MICE business to Thailand. The new fee, effective October 1, is 2,000 rupees (US$40) per person and comes up to 2,350 rupees including processing charges. Previously, it was 1,400 rupees.
Indian buyers the Daily spoke to were aware of the fee increase because of a circular sent out by the Thai embassy in India just prior to IT&CMA, explaining that the adjustments were made “due to the cumulative changes in foreign exchange rates, and may be adjusted periodically in the future”.
Anshuman Mitra, director, New Delhi-based Starlite DMC, said: “The visa fee increase creates a lot of pressure on us as MICE operators into Thailand. Maybe the leisure arrivals won’t be affected, but I am 100 per cent certain that the MICE market from India will be hit. The visa fee is crucial in terms of overall costs, since MICE groups tend to be quite large compared to leisure.
“The visa fee waiver over the last few years was the biggest advantage Thailand had to attract markets like India. Other governments like Singapore, Malaysia and Macau are not raising visa fees. In fact, compared to Thailand, some of them are actually paying us subsidies to bring Indian MICE into their destinations.”
Mitra said concern was already pouring in from MICE clients scheduled for Thailand. “The extra cost is almost equivalent to the rate for a roomnight in Bangkok.”
Representatives from Onyx Hospitality Group’s Amari brand of hotels tried to paint a positive picture.
Amari Watergate Bangkok general manager, Pierre-Andre Pelletier, said: “Despite the hike, Thailand is still value for money. We have a lot of good connections between India and Thailand, and there are plenty of opportunities for MICE here.”
– Read more in IT&CMA and CTW Asia-Pacific Official Daily – Day 3 issue