To secure the island’s position as the top yachting destination in the region Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul has announced that changes in visa and chartering legislation are necessary.
“Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha wants to make Thailand a world-class hub for yachts and cruise boats in Southeast Asia – and we think Phuket is ready for that,” Minister Kobkarn said. “I am aware that Thailand has to change some regulations to develop our tourism in response to heightened competition from other yachting destinations in the region.”
Following a meeting with Governor Nisit Jansomwong on January 16, Ms Kobkarn vowed to raise concerns voiced about yacht crew visas and the chartering of foreign-flagged superyachts at a Cabinet meeting slated to take place in early February. Current legislation allows boats entering Thai waters to remain for six months. However, captains and crew receive visas on arrival or entry on visa-exemption status, which allow stays of only up to 30 days.
“I will talk with Cabinet members about what we can do concerning yacht crew visas. Actually, the government has been talking about making changes to other types of visas that would be best for the country,” Ms Kobkarn said. “I give my full support to tourism, but there are of course internal security and safety measures that must be considered. The Minister of Foreign Affairs is in charge of visas, so, as you can see, this is beyond my authority to approve. We will look at what can be done to decrease the VAT to support yacht tourism. However, this will take time,” she said.
“We have to work step by step to make changes to support superyacht tourism. At this stage, I have no idea when we can make such changes. Other ministries must be consulted and the subject must be debated to determine what is the best for Thailand. I can’t do it alone.”