KOCHI: While the tourism business - inbound and outbound - was a casualty of the devastating flood, the recent announcement by the Thai government to waive visa-on-arrival fees has given fresh hope to tour operators in the state.
Thailand gave the green signal to waive the visa fee for visitors from 21 countries, including India, for two months starting from December 1. The Thai government made the announcement on Tuesday. “The waiver will make tour packages cheaper by at least R5,000,” said Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI) Kerala Chapter chairman Paulose Mathew, adding the waiver will help the ailing outbound tourism market in Kerala. Thailand - particularly Bangkok and Pattaya - is a popular destination for both bachelors and families from Kerala. We expect about 6,000 tourists to take advantage of the waiver.”
Southeast Asian countries are among the most popular foreign destinations among tourists from Kerala. Tour operators in the state will are set to introduce attractive packages to complement the waiver. “Apart from Bangkok and Pattaya, we will provide a tour to Phuket as an additional option in the package,” said Paulose.
Tour agencies claim around 12 lakh Indians visited Thailand last year. On an average, a 10 per cent growth has been recorded annually of tourists from India visiting Thailand. Sri Lanka and ‘holy land’ tours to Israel are also popular among tourists from Kerala. Cruises to the Maldives are a new popular offering.
“Even though operations have been normalised, business is yet to overcome the dip following the flood,” said Paulose.