Visa waiver, sports to increase Saudi travel
Saudi travelers arrive at Suvarnabhumi Airport in February 2022, following the resumption of direct commercial flights from the country. Varuth Hirunyatheb
Thailand hopes to strengthen tourism cooperation with Saudi Arabia, including offering visa waivers and promoting Muay Thai after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit, according to the Ministry of Tourism and Sports.
Five sets of memorandums of understanding were signed by Thailand and Saudi Arabia at the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting last week, one of them aimed at promoting tourism between the two countries.
Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said a visa waiver for Thai tourists visiting Saudi Arabia was among the topics of discussion and the Thai government also wanted a shorter waiting period for the application process.
In terms of promoting tourism, Thailand wants Saudi Arabia to help promote health and wellness tourism focused on its world-class medical services to its residents.
Thailand has also offered to increase the number of flights between Riyadh and Jeddah to Bangkok, as well as to Phuket.
For Phuket, year-round flights are preferable. If this is not possible, a focus on the high season from July to August is sufficient to support this market, Phiphat said.
In terms of sports, Thailand is interested in cooperating on esports as well as sending licensed Muay Thai trainers to help develop the sport in Saudi Arabia. Thailand wants to host a Muay Thai workshop in the country.
Mr Phiphat said earlier he had urged Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to discuss lifting border controls with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the summit, allowing Chinese citizens to travel abroad , especially from the southern provinces.
However, he said there were few signs of progress from China and the topic was not included on the official agenda.
To compensate for the lack of a Chinese market, Thailand will continue to focus on other short-haul markets such as Malaysia, Singapore and Laos, as well as India, which has strong demand to increase flights to Thailand.
According to the ministry, the number of tourists from North Asia is gradually increasing, with Korean tourists averaging 20,000 per week, up from 15,000, Hong Kongers 8,700 per week, up from 4,000, and Taiwanese 5,000 per week. week, compared to 2,000.
For the long-haul market, a busier winter flight schedule signals a recovery, the ministry said. The first direct flights in 10 years between Canada and Thailand are scheduled to begin next month by Air Canada.