The following is a dispatch from Rob Cotter, a frequent One+ contributor, who is attending the IT&CMA conference in Bangkok, Thailand.
Having endured political unrest in 2007 and 2009, Thailand made significant efforts at all levels in an attempt to sustain its MICE industry and make sure a framework was in place for the speediest return to normal operations. One such measure was the waiver of visa fees for visitors from India between 2009 and March of this year, increasing their competitive edge with the direct consequence of India topping the list of meeting and incentive visitors to Thailand in 2010. Their particular focus being medical science and technology events as well as the broader science industry and education, with record numbers of Indian visitors registered, they even surpassed China to become Thailandʼs biggest inbound source country.
Delegates at this yearʼs IT&CMA were therefore surprised to learn that the reinstated visa fee for India had been hiked by almost 50 percent from October 1, taking it from an original $28 to $40, closer to $45 when all processing fees have been included.
“I am 100 percent sure that the MICE market from India will be hit,” said Anshuman Mitra, director of Starlite DMC in New Delhi. “The visa fee is crucial in terms of overall costs, since MICE groups tend to be quite large compared to leisure, and over the last few years, it was the biggest advantage Thailand had to attract markets like India.”
Highlighting what may be an outcome of this decision, Mitra also added that “other governments like Singapore, Malaysia and Macau are not raising visa fees. In fact, some of them are actually paying us subsidies to bring Indian MICE into their destinations.”
It will be interesting to see if the visa fee increase is a wise move.