Travel to Thailand from India is experiencing a near 50 per cent surge, owing to the recently extended visa exemption program.

The Thai government announced that Indian tourists can now enter the country visa-free until November 11, 2024, a significant extension from the initial expiry date of May 10. This policy change, coupled with stable airfare prices -- an increase of 5 per cent -- is driving a boom in bookings for Thailand vacations.

Online travel platforms are reporting a significant increase in interest for Thailand travel ‘ixigo’, a major travel aggregator, revealed a staggering 90 per cent jump in searches for Thailand trips in May 2024 compared to May 2023. Industry experts believe this surge is directly linked to the visa exemption extension and its accompanying cost savings.

“The extension, combined with stable airfares to popular destinations like Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, and Krabi, is a major win for travellers. What is noteworthy is that together with the positive announcement on free-entry extension by 6 months, the airfares to top Thailand destination like Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Krabi are also either on par with last year or seeing a marginal increase of 5 per cent. Eliminating visa costs, especially for families and groups traveling together, is a significant advantage, particularly for a value-conscious market like India. This, along with the ease of travel with no visa application process and short flight times, is creating significant demand for Thailand across both leisure and business segments,” said Rajiv Kale, President and Country Head, Holidays, MICE, Visa at Thomas Cook (India) Limited.

Travel companies are also witnessing a rise in last-minute bookings due to the visa exemption.

“With shorter booking windows this year, the free visa extension creates exciting opportunities for impulsive travellers seeking Thailand getaways.” SOTC Travel’s data reflects this trend, showcasing a search surge exceeding 30 per cent. Interestingly, the data also suggests a growing interest in destinations beyond the usual tourist hotspots. Daniel D’souza, President and Country Head - Holidays at SOTC Travel.

Demand is seen for places like Koh Samui, Chiang Mai/Rai, Koh Phangan, Similan Islands, historical Ayutthaya/Sukhothai, Khao Lak, and Koh Lanta.

“While cost savings attract millennials and Gen Z travellers, there’s also strong interest in premium stays and resorts from families and luxury travellers,” he added. This indicates a broader appeal for Thailand vacations, catering to diverse travel styles and budgets.

Visa-free travel offers a clear advantage for tourists. It eliminates the need for a lengthy visa application process, saving time and money. MakeMyTrip, another prominent online travel agency, highlighted this benefit.

A company spokesperson said, “Bookings from April 2024 compared to April 2023 show a 33 per cent growth across all newly visa-free and e-visa destinations for Indians. Countries like Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Angola, and Japan are leading the pack, with a positive search trend continuing this summer as well.”