PM Srettha’s Visit, Trade Relations, and Visa Policies

This week, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin embarked on a strategic visit to three provinces in Thailand’s deep south, aiming to invigorate trade and tourism with a series of impactful measures. Amidst this effort, the temporary suspension of the TM6 immigration form at Sadao checkpoint has notably increased Malaysian tourist arrivals by 10-20% daily since its initiation in November last year, showcasing a significant uptick in cross-border travel and economic activity in the region.

Strategic Moves to Stimulate Tourism

The suspension of the TM6 form, set to expire in April, played a crucial role in the spike of tourism during the Chinese New Year holiday, with daily Malaysian tourist figures in Hat Yai and Songkhla soaring to over 10,000 and hotel occupancy rates climbing to 80-90%. However, post-festival periods saw a decline to 5,000 daily arrivals, reflecting typical non-holiday trends. Songchai Mungprasithichai, president of the Songkhla Tourism Promotion Association, advocates for extending the TM6 form suspension to other major southern checkpoints and addressing regional conflicts to further elevate tourism prospects. Additionally, the prevailing emergency decree casts a shadow over international tourist confidence, particularly affecting those less acquainted with the region’s safety landscape.

Malaysia’s Tourism Surge and Thailand’s Competitive Edge

Contrastingly, Malaysia’s tourism sector is experiencing a boom, welcoming 26 million foreign visitors in 2023, attributed to resumed flights, enhanced safety measures, and visa exemptions for Chinese and Indian tourists. Trip.com’s Bo Sun highlights a positive outlook for Thailand’s tourism, especially from China, considering the permanent visa-free agreement starting March 1. This collaboration between the online travel platform and the Tourism Authority of Thailand has sparked significant interest, particularly for the upcoming Songkran festival, underscoring Thailand’s allure as a top destination in Southeast Asia, with Bangkok, Phuket, and Chiang Mai at the forefront of tourist preferences.

Future Implications and Tourism Growth Potential

As Thailand seeks to navigate the competitive landscape of Southeast Asian tourism, the strategic efforts by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin to bolster tourism and trade relations in the southern provinces mark a pivotal step towards realizing this vision. The emphasis on easing travel restrictions, coupled with initiatives to enhance safety and promote cultural festivities, underscores a comprehensive approach to attracting international visitors. With Malaysia’s burgeoning tourism industry as a backdrop, Thailand’s endeavors to extend visa-free privileges and foster online collaborations signify a robust strategy to captivate a broader audience, promising a bright future for the nation’s tourism sector.


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