Chinese Travelers Could Soon Get Visas Via WeChat

Chinese tourists feed elephants in Lampang province.

BANGKOK — The Immigration Bureau said Wednesday that it’s considering a plan to let Chinese travelers apply for Thai tourist visas via the mainland’s most popular chat application.

Lt. Gen. Surachate Hakparn, chief of bureau police, told reporters that the plan, if implemented, would help Chinese apply for visas without having to fill in the English-language TM6 arrival cards by using WeChat. The application could also allow Chinese travelers to pay visa fees via their e-wallet.

“We discovered that Chinese nationals had problems filling in the TM6 forms in English and Thai,” Surachate said after attending a meeting with representatives from Tencent, WeChat’s Chinese developer. “We will use the technology to do away with paper in order to improve speed.”

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Another meeting will be convened next week, and if the Thai authorities approve the idea, Surachate said it could be implemented in four months.

The proposal is the latest effort to draw Chinese tourists back to Thailand after arrivals plummeted in the wake of a deadly ferry sinking in July. Yearly arrivals for 2018 exceeded a historic milestone of 10 million in December, though monthly arrivals are still lower than during the same period last year.

The government today also extended a visa fee exemption for Chinese visitors through April in a bid to stimulate travel during the upcoming Chinese New Year’s holidays.

The exemptions are expected to cost the state 2.1 billion baht in lost revenues, but prime minister advisor Nattaporn Jatusripitak said the losses would be offset by 6 billion baht in tourist spending.

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