INBOUND visitors from Singapore and Hong Kong will soon be able to skip long immigration queues at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang international airports as authorities roll out a new scheme allowing them to use automatic passport scanners currently reserved for locals.
Thai news outlet The Nation reported (via Channel News Asia) that immigration processing time will be cut down to 20 to 30 seconds, a far cry from the average of 30 minutes tourists are subjected to during busy periods.
While visitors of other nationalities will also be considered for the perk, Hong Kong and Singapore visitors were the first to test out the new scheme owing to their frequency in Thailand compared with other markets, TTG Asia reported.
Immigration bureau commissioner Pol Lt-General Nathathorn Prousoontorn told The Nation: “We plan to introduce this new system for those from Singapore and Hong Kong this month or next month. Cooperation with Singapore on the matter is nearly 100 percent complete, but for Hong Kong we need more discussions.”
Chinese tourists – Thailand’s biggest tourist market in terms of arrivals and spending – are left behind for the moment because they were found to be one-time visitors and don’t match the frequency of Hong Kong and Singapore travelers.
“It is true that nine million Chinese tourists visit Thailand each year, while visitors from Hong Kong and Singapore were much fewer – about one million,” Prousoontorn said. “But Chinese tourists usually visit Thailand once and never come back. Those from Hong Kong and Singapore come here several times per year.”
The service will be applied to travelers from the rest of Asia and Europe soon, but because of “security concerns”, it will not be available to travelers from parts of the Middle East, South Africa, and South Asia.