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'Thailand to consider waiving visa fees'

Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva said his government may waive visa fees for all tourists for three months in a bid to boost visitor numbers following last year's siege of Bangkok's airports.

world Updated: Jan 16, 2009 12:37 IST

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said his government may waive visa fees for all tourists for three months in a bid to boost visitor numbers following last year's siege of Bangkok's airports.

Abhisit who has come under fire for including in his government members of the protest group that seized the airports in November said late on Thursday there could also be discounts on aircraft landing fees.

"The plan to revive the tourism sector will be tabled at the cabinet meeting next on Tuesday and will include a three months waiver for visa fees and discounting landing fees," he told a seminar.

"I hope these measures will help the tourism sector one way or another."

Nationals of 41 countries including the United States, most European nations, Japan, Australia and New Zealand already do not require a visa to enter Thailand if their stay does not exceed 30 days.

Tourism in Thailand has taken a hit from both the global economic downturn and the anti-government protests in late November that led to a blockade of Bangkok's two airports for more than a week.

The siege left 350,000 travellers stranded in Bangkok and dented the kingdom's tourist-friendly image.

The Bank of Thailand has forecast that tourist arrivals in 2009 would drop 8.8 per cent from 12.8 million visitors in 2008. The industry accounts for some five percent of gross domestic product.

The government has allocated one billion baht (28.6 million dollars) of a 115-billion-baht fiscal stimulus package to boost tourism.

Abhisit said he had also dispatched government minister Veerachai Veeramethikul to Beijing to persuade China to remove its travel warning to Thailand.

Meanwhile Abhisit said he hoped Thailand's political turmoil would be resolved ahead of his planned trips to China and Japan in February and March.

"The fact that I am planning trips overseas means I am sure that by then we will have everything in good shape at home," he said.

Abhisit was elected prime minister in December, after a court verdict which removed the previous government from power and persuaded protesters to lift the airport blockade.