New visa rules hit tourism in Songkhla

New visa rules hit tourism in Songkhla
PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

A new visa requirement affecting visitors from Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei has dealt a blow to tourism in the bustling border town of Songkhla.

Visitors from the three ASEAN countries, and 46 other nations, now need to apply for a tourist visa if they make more than two trips to Thailand via land transport. However, tourists who arrive by air or boat can still enjoy the visa-free trips for up to 30 days at a time.

Read also: 6 countries Singaporeans can visit without having to apply for a visa

"This is a worrying inconvenience," Songkhla Tourism Industry Council chairman Surapol Kampalanonwat said yesterday.

"In the past, these visitors could come whenever they liked, without having to worry about a visa. But now Thailand has restricted their visa-free trips to just two a year if they come by land."

Songkhla welcomed almost three million tourists from Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei via its land-based checkpoint in 2015, bringing in more than Bt1.6 billion (S$64.3 million).

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The Interior Ministry's new visa regulations took effect on December 31.

"I should point out that more than 90 per cent of tourists from Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei travel to Songkhla by car and bus," Surapol said.

He said there is just one daily flight between Songkhla's Hat Yai and Singapore. There are no direct flights from Indonesia and Brunei to Songkhla.

The number of Indonesian visitors to Songkhla has risen over the past few years. Tourism-related businesses in the border province are urging the ministry to review the visa rule, having submitted an official request via Songakhla's governor last month.

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