THAILAND’s outbound agencies should prepare for a mini price war as travellers look to take advantage of Taiwan’s visa exemptions, industry figures warn.
Tourists from Thailand and Brunei will be able to visit Taiwan visa-free for up to 30 days from Aug 1 under a one-year trial expected to bring in an extra 280,000 visitors and US$407 million in revenue.
Kritchanat Meesamran, managing director of Sun Smile Holiday and Travel Company and vice-president of the Thai Travel Agents Association (TTAA), said operators would have to keep prices low even with extra demand.
“From now on, tour companies will have to compete on price for tour packages to Taiwan,” he said, adding that agents can expect a shift towards more last-minute bookings.
The decision came as Taipei seeks to arrest a slide in tourism revenue and was announced just a day before a deadly bus fire killed 24 Chinese tourists, a tour guide and the driver as they made their way to Taiwan’s international airport.
The move puts Taiwan in direct competition with South Korea and Japan for Thai tourists, which respectively offer 90-day and 15-day exemptions. Package tours to Taiwan are relatively cheap, and the stable currency makes it an attractive option.
KTK Tour Enterprise's managing director Surawat Akaraworamat said he had no doubt Taiwan would soon threaten South Korea and Japan, which are major draws for Thais.
He said: “(With the visa exemption), Thai travel to Taiwan will increase for sure.”
The TTAA is anticipating a rise in outbound travel of between five to seven per cent for 2016, with Kasikorn Research Centre estimating Thais will make 7.4 million trips.