Thailand wants Schengen-like visa for Southeast Asia – Bloomberg — RT World News

Thailand is considering a proposal to create a Schengen-like zone in Southeast Asia to attract more high-spending tourists to the region, Bloomberg reported on Saturday.

According to the report, Thai Prime Minister Sritha Thavisin presented the idea to his counterparts in Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar and Vietnam, and the countries discussed the initiative at length in recent months.

The plan means creating an area similar to the area of ​​travel without a passport in the European Union. This would enable tourists to travel visa-free between the six neighboring countries, which Thavisin believes will help generate more revenue per tourist. Most leaders reportedly welcomed the idea, but the report did not say what stage discussions are currently at.

The idea of ​​creating a Schengen-like area in the region has been under consideration for years. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) announced plans to create a single-visa travel system in 2011, but efforts have faltered due to significant differences in member states' individual visa regimes.

The idea may still be a challenge today, according to Thitinan Pongsudirak, a professor at Chulalongkorn University's School of Political Science. He told the media that the single visa system would require coordination of approvals due to the lack of uniform immigration standards in each country, unlike the European Union.

Bill Barnett, managing director of hospitality and property consultancy C9 Hotelworks, suggested it would be easier to start implementing the visa exemption regime on a country-by-country basis.

“Bilateral agreements, where governments lead the way on this sort of thing, make a lot of sense because they look outward rather than inward.” As reported by Bloomberg. He also said the initiative could be beneficial not only to the local tourism industry, but also to business travel and trade.

The six countries recorded a total arrival of 70 million foreign tourists in 2023, according to official data. Thailand and Malaysia accounted for more than half of arrivals.

Tourism is a major source of income in Thailand, accounting for about 12% of the country's roughly $500 billion economy. Number of foreign tourists arriving in Thailand jump By 20% in 2023 from the previous year, to more than 27 million, the highest since the Covid-19 pandemic. However, Bangkok seeks to raise this number to 80 million by 2027, to boost the industry's profits.

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