Thailand is still reeling from a pretty catastrophic year and the tourism industry in particular is trying to devise new plans to lure holidaymakers back. Hotels and other service providers have been leading the way by slashing rates across the board and offering extremely competitive prices.
The Thai government has also made a couple of attempts itself, the last of which was a bit of a fiasco to say the least.
In a knee-jerk response to the situation, the government last week released a statement saying that all tourist visas processed overseas would be free until March 2010. Not a bad idea in principal, although I personally doubt if the nominal visa fee is a major consideration for people when they consider a holiday. In addition, most nationalities receive a one month visa on arrival without needing to pay anyway. Visa fees are generally only applicable to longer tourist visas and not the holidaymakers the government are trying to attract.
Ironically, the government recently made a move in the opposite direction by reducing the visa-on-arrival given at land crossings into Thailand from one month to fifteen days. This move was part of a plan to deter people (like myself) who frequently stay for months on tourist visas (I have the luxury of a ‘Non Immigrant B’ visa these days though!).
However, it seems the government hadn’t done its homework properly on this latest one, as the move caused a great stir throughout their embassies and consulates worldwide.
Thai embassies are state institutions and are funded accordingly. However, there are also hundreds of ‘honorary consulates’ (as we have in the UK in Hull and Liverpool) which are not funded by the state and survive only through the visa fees. The consulates are popular for their efficient postal services and application approval rates.
Some consulates have said they might go bust as a result and have instead added an ‘admin fee’ to the process which totally defeats the purpose of the move.
Vintage Thailand. But I still love it and always will.