BANGKOK (AFP) — 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 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 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 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.
He said he hoped Thailand's political turmoil would end ahead of planned trips to China and Japan in February and March, adding: "I am sure that by then we will have everything in good shape at home."
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.
Separately, Phornsiri Manoharn, governor of Tourism Authority of Thailand, was quoted on the Thai government's website as projecting 14.8 million tourist arrivals this year.
"Under the campaign slogan of Amazing Thailand, Amazing Value, we expect to attract at least 14.8 million tourists," she said.
She said there were 14.2 million tourist arrivals in Thailand in 2008, below the targeted figure of 15.7 million.
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