Immigration clearances at airports rise 31 percent

The number of people clearing Immigration at Thailand’s major airports rose 31.3 percent during the first five months of this year providing a strong positive indicator of the continued robust performance of the Kingdom’s tourism and business sectors.

The Immigration Bureau (IB) said it is planning more training for its officers to help them cope with the increasing workload. The figures represent both Thai and foreign travelers at five major airports: Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang (both in Bangkok), Phuket, Chiang Mai and Hat Yai. A bureau spokesman said further increases of up to 10 percent are expected in the second half of this year.

“The IB was therefore accelerating its measures being maintained to keep up with the rise in the number of travellers entering and leaving the country,” said Immigration Police Colonel Cheongron Rimphadi.

The rise in clearances is a challenge for the Bureau. The IB had received numerous complaints about long lines at major airports, and so has revamped its procedures to try and expedite the process while also maintaining controls strict enough to weed out foreign criminals and undesirables.

The Bureau has also hired 254 additional officers to increase staff at the airport immigration checkpoints, Cheongron said, adding that these new officers recently completed their training and are just now being deployed.

While the IB recorded 41.9 million clearances, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports released its own figures last week. The Ministry said there were 16,456,470 arrivals at all immigration checkpoints during January to May, an increase of 12.6 percent year-on-year. Those figures mainly represent foreign tourists, and put Thailand on a pace to set a new arrivals record this year for foreign tourists.

Asian nations led the pack in arrivals, with China topping the list, followed by India and Malaysia. The United States was listed in 10th place.

The IB said that Don Muang showed an 18.6 percent increase in clearances over the same period last year, and attributed the strong rise to the fact that so many low-cost or budget airlines use Don Muang.

Tourism is extremely important to the Thai economy, contributing roughly 10 percent to gross domestic product, and employing tens of millions of Thais directly and indirectly.