The cabinet on Tuesday extended by six months to Augustvisa44 and discounts on visas on arrival for visitors from 21 countries.

The Tourism and Sports Ministry proposed the extension to attract foreign tourists as the measure earlier set for three months from early December to Feb 28 raised the number of tourist arrivals by 12.4%, said government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd.

Under the measure, visa fees are waived at Thai consulates and embassies and the visa-on-arrival fee is halved to 1,000 baht.

The special scheme benefits visitors from Andorra, Bulgaria, Bhutan, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, India, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, the Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

Concerned authorities would find a solution to compensate the Foreign Ministry which would lose about 7.5 billion baht from normal visa fees in the six-month period, Lt Gen Sansern said.

The visa scheme was initiated to offset a sharp drop of Chinese tourists following the government’s zero-dollar crackdown in late September last year.

The visa scheme has increased foreign tourist arrivals since December. Last year, there were 32.6 million arrivals in Thailand. During Jan 1-20, Thailand welcomed 1.8 million international tourists, up 6% year-on-year.