Published on : Monday, February 11, 2013
The implications of the Thailand-Cambodia joint visa, which finally took effect on December 27, 2012, are not as far-reaching as expected, and tour operators have turned their attention instead to the unwelcome Vietnamese visa fee hike.
India and China are among the 35 countries eligible for the new Thai-Cambodia visa, which allows tourists to spend up to 60 days each in Thailand and Cambodia without having to apply for separate visas.However, Asian Trails’ manager for the China market, Grace Chen, said she had not seen any impact as yet. “Our MICE clients from China tend to stay only five to six days in Thailand, so it’s unlikely they will extend their trips to Cambodia.”
The higher cost of applying for the joint visa also makes it unattractive to Western travellers, most of whom already enjoy visa exemptions to Thailand, pointed out Simon Sweet, director of sales, Footsteps in Style. “What we want to see is no visa charges for Cambodia.”
Furthermore, DMCs said a bigger worry for regional itineraries was the increased visa fee for Vietnam. As of January 1, single-entry visas cost US$45 – up from US$25 – while multiple-entry visas are also priced higher than before.
This jeopardises any possible benefit from the Thai-Cambodian visa, said Asian Trails deputy managing director, Claudio Kellenberger. A general manager of a DMC in Vietnam said that overseas agents were surprised at the fee hike after years of talk about facilitating access and ASEAN or Thailand- Cambodia-Vietnam visas. “Everyone would have welcomed the increase if it was tied to a simplification of procedures.”
Bach Tran, general manager – Vietnam, Buffalo Tours, agreed. “Thailand and Cambodia have introduced a joint visa, which makes it easier for travel, whereas Vietnam is making it harder for tourists to come,” he said, though he
acknowledged that it was too early to measure the impact at this stage.