Fewer Singaporeans are now heading by land to Hat Yai in Thailand, under new Thai visa rules, according to local bus operators and Thai tour guides.
Under the Dec 31 rules, visitors who arrive via land by bus or rail have to obtain a visa in advance if they are visiting for the third time or more in a calendar year.
This affects visitors from countries that are entitled to a 30-day visa exemption, including Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines. The regulation does not affect tourists who arrive in Thailand by plane or ship.
In Singapore, bus operators that The Straits Times spoke to said their business has been affected. They include 99 Coachland Express, which said it used to see at least six Singaporeans a day taking the coach to Thailand.
"Now, sometimes there's not even one Singaporean a day. Hopefully in June, during the holidays, there will be more Singaporeans taking the bus," said an employee who declined to be identified.
The Bangkok Post last Friday quoted Hat Yai tour guide Withaya sae Lim as saying that Singaporean tourists would typically stay between three and five days and make 15 visits a year before the new visa requirements kicked in. He added that the number of Singaporean tourists has since fallen by 60 per cent.
According to bus operators here, many Singaporeans are deterred by the $50 visa application fees. In comparison, the cost of a one-way bus ticket from Singapore to Hat Yai ranges from about $38 to $45.
About 10 buses arrive in Hat Yai from Singapore daily, reported The Bangkok Post.
Mr Anuwat Phetwarothai, owner of AS Tour in Hat Yai, told the Thai newspaper that a Singaporean visitor spends about 3,500 baht (S$140) a day.