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Thailand extends visa waiver plan for Indian tourists till Nov 11

NEW DELHI, May 7: Thailand’s cabinet approved a plan to extend visa exemption programs for tourists from India and Taiwan for six more months, as the Southeast Asian nation seeks to boost the number of foreign arrivals to shore up its sluggish economy.

Tourists from India and Taiwan will be able to enter Thailand without a visa until November 11 after an existing waiver ends on Friday, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin told reporters after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday. Travelers can stay for a maximum of 30 days at a time under the rules.

The temporary extension follows the success of the initial waiver in November last year. Indian and Taiwanese tourists are normally eligible to stay in Thailand for 15 days under a visa-on-arrival scheme.

Tourism-reliant Thailand has been relaxing visa rules for travelers from some of its main markets including China and Russia.

In the first four months of 2024, Thailand has welcomed more than 12 million foreign tourists, representing a 39% increase from the same period last year, according to the Ministry of Tourism and Sports.

Thailand’s largest groups of visitors — those from China, Malaysia, Russia, South Korea and India — accounted for half of the total arrivals this year.

Tourism is one of Thailand’s key industries accounting for about 20% of total jobs and making up about 12% of the nation’s $500 billion economy. Srettha’s administration has set a goal of attracting 80 million tourists by 2027.

'Please Be Part Of Our Tourism': Maldives Urges India Amid Strained Ties

MALE, May 6: With the number of Indian tourists visiting the Maldives dwindling amidst strained bilateral ties, the archipelago nation's tourism minister on Monday urged Indians to contribute to the country's economy which is dependent on tourism.

In an interview, Maldivian Tourism Minister Ibrahim Faisal emphasised on the historical relations between his country and India.

"We have a history. Our newly elected government also wants to work together (with India). We always promote peace and a friendly environment. Our people and the government will give a warm welcome to Indian arrivals. As the Tourism Minister, I want to tell Indians to please be a part of Maldives' tourism. Our economy depends on tourism," he said.

A full-blown backlash was directed at the Maldives following derogatory remarks against India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on social media by three Maldivian officials after Modi posted photos and video of the pristine Lakshadweep Islands on India's west coast on January 6 on his X handle.

Scores of Indians, including multiple celebrities, cancelled their reservations and dropped plans to visit Maldives. The tourism arrival statistics reflected how from being a top visitor country, India's position went down from topmost to sixth position after January.

According to a report published on Monday, the number of tourist arrivals from India declined by 42 per cent in the first four months of this year compared to the first four months of last year.

At the start of this year, India was the top tourist market for the Maldives. Shortly into the year, India dropped to sixth place amongst the top tourist markets, the news portal reported.

According to Tourism Ministry statistics, Maldives recorded a total of 43,991 tourist arrivals from India as of May 4. Between January and April of last year, Maldives recorded 73,785 tourist arrivals. This year, the number stands at 42,638.

The report attributed the steep decline in Indian tourists to the strained relations between India and the Maldives after the new administration led by President Mohamed Muizzu assumed office in November last year.

The India-Maldives ties have come under stress as President Muizzu, widely seen as a pro-China leader, maintained after assuming charge as the president in November that he will keep his election promise of evicting Indian military personnel from his country.

Soon after coming to power, Muizzu forced the withdrawal of the 88 Indian military personnel manning three aviation platforms gifted by India to the Maldives. He has previously accused India of meddling in the affairs of the Maldives and won the presidential elections in September last year with an "India Out" campaign.

The Maldives is India's key maritime neighbour in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and occupies a special place in its initiatives like 'SAGAR' (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and the 'Neighbourhood First Policy' of the Modi government.

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