Instead, the B2,000 fee exemption that runs from Nov 15, 2018, to Oct 31 this year has given a big boost to India, one of the 21 nations eligible for the exemption.
Arrivals from China in the first quarter this year dropped slightly by 2.1% year-on-year to 3.1 million visitors, compared with a 25% growth in Indian arrivals to 450,000.
For Chinese visitors who came and used the services of members of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta), there was a big drop of 13.6% to 1.05 million visitors during Jan 1 to April 20.
Atta reports an 11% increase of 76,300 visitors from India during the same period.
Chinnarat Chinburi, a committee member of Atta, said the India market has been growing steadily over the past decade, by 5-10% a year thanks to its huge population of some 1.3 billion.
He said the improving economy and growing middle class is driving more Indians to travel abroad.
While first-time visitors is a growth segment, the visa fee exemption, roughly 4,000 to 5,000 rupees, is an attractive tool to draw them here. Furthermore, it helped raise the competitiveness of Thailand among neighbouring countries, said Mr Chinnarat.
Indian tourists also enjoy visiting Myanmar and Vietnam.
Mr Chinnarat, who has over 30 years of experience in the Indian market, said visitors from India can be broken down into three groups: incentives, leisure and wedding.
He said the general election in India, being held from April 11 to May 19, has slowed travel from incentive groups, but they are expected to return in October, the rainy season in India.
However, May is a peak season for Indian leisure travel because of school breaks in most parts of the country.
“Family groups often travel at this time and they prefer visiting destinations with direct flights, such as Phuket and Krabi,” said Mr Chinnarat.
Tourists also come for weddings in Thailand, which is another popular segment. Their favourite time of the year for weddings is November to January.
Last year, tourism receipts from the India market totalled B66 billion, a 16% increase from the year before.
Most of their spending went to accommodation, shopping, food and beverages.
To cash in on the market, Mr Chinnarat suggests Thai operators provide products to meet their demand, such as Indian cuisine and vegan food for health-conscious tourists.
Designing short-trip package tours is also necessary as Indian tourists prefer spending just a few days in each town, he said.
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