Thai vis­i­tors un­fazed by Ja­pan levy

Bangkok Post - - BUSINESS - WALAILAK KEERATIPIPATPONG

Thai out­bound travel to Ja­pan is set to con­tinue grow­ing this year de­spite the new de­par­ture tax, or say­onara levy, charged to all pas­sen­gers leav­ing the coun­try. Ef­fec­tive Jan 7, both Ja­panese and for­eign trav­ellers leav­ing Ja­pan by plane or ship are re­quired to pay a de­par­ture tax of ¥1,000 (about 300 baht). The levy will be added to air­fares and ship fares. “The levy is an in­signif­i­cant amount and is un­likely to de­ter Thais from trav­el­ling to Ja­pan,” said Thanapol Chee­warat­tana­porn, pres­i­dent of the Thai Travel Agents As­so­ci­a­tion (TTAA). Tour op­er­a­tors will add the ex­pense to pack­age tours, he said. The Ja­panese gov­ern­ment plans to use the tax rev­enue to boost tourism in­fra­struc­ture and pro­mote travel des­ti­na­tions in ru­ral Ja­pan, as well as fund global tourism cam­paigns. While com­pe­ti­tion in the mar­ket is quite in­tense and some pack­age tours to Ja­pan are avail­able at very low prices, Mr Thanapol be­lieves pay­ing 300 baht more is not a prob­lem for tourists go­ing to Ja­pan, a pop­u­lar out­bound des­ti­na­tion among Thais. TTAA es­ti­mates the num­ber of Thai tourists vis­it­ing Ja­pan this year will ex­ceed 1 mil­lion for again, after break­ing 1 mil­lion for first time in 2018. Thanks to poli­cies to draw more in­ter­na­tional tourists, Ja­pan now al­lows cit­i­zens of 68 coun­tries/ter­ri­to­ries to travel for tourism or busi­ness without hav­ing to ob­tain a visa. Since July 2013 for­eign tourists in­clud­ing Thais stay­ing no longer than 15 days do not need to ob­tain a visa. The mea­sure has worked, in­creas­ing the num­ber of for­eign vis­i­tors to Ja­pan from 8.3 mil­lion in 2012 to 10.3 mil­lion in 2013 and 28.6 mil­lion in 2017. Last week, the Ja­pan Na­tional Tourism Or­gan­i­sa­tion (JNTO) re­ported that in­ter­na­tional trav­ellers reached 30 mil­lion as of Dec 17, 2018. The ma­jor­ity of vis­i­tors to Ja­pan are from coun­tries in Asia, with China, South Ko­rea, Tai­wan and Hong Kong claim­ing the top spots. The JNTO also re­ported some 1.1 mil­lion Thais vis­ited Ja­pan last year, up from 986,000 in 2017. Kasikorn Re­search Cen­ter at­tributes the growth of Thai out­bound travel in re­cent years to heavy com­pe­ti­tion in the tourism mar­ket and among air­lines, es­pe­cially after the In­ter­na­tional Civil Avi­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion lifted its red flag penalty on Thai avi­a­tion in 2017. At least 10 mil­lion Thais vis­ited other coun­tries in 2017 and the num­ber was es­ti­mated to reach 10.2 mil­lion last year. Coun­tries that share bor­ders with Thai­land — Malaysia and Laos — are the most vis­ited by Thai tourists.

TAWATCHAI KEMGUMNERD

Vis­i­tors check Ja­pan tour pack­ages at a travel fair.

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