International residence and citizenship advisory firm Henley & Partners and the Thailand Elite Residence Program — managed by Thailand Privilege Card Company Ltd. — are celebrating the first anniversary of their successful global partnership, which has brought in record growth for the highly sought-after program.
The program, which is the first of its kind worldwide, offers unlimited access to the jewel of Southeast Asia as well as a range of special VIP privileges. It was initiated by the Royal Thai Government for the purpose of attracting wealthy global citizens, families, investors, and entrepreneurs who want to spend extended periods of time in the country and take advantage of its beneficial tax regime and its affordable yet exceptionally high standard of living.
Since April 2017, when Henley & Partners was appointed exclusive global concessionaire for the Thailand Elite Residence Program, there has been a strong uptick in demand for the various residence options available within the program. According to Dominic Volek, Managing Partner of Henley & Partners Singapore and Head of Southeast Asia, “The program went from attracting an average of 300 applications per year to securing over 900 on-boarded residents for the April to December 2017 period alone”.
The 2018 year-to-date results also show tremendous promise: March was a record month in the program’s history, with 161 new residents on-boarded. “This monthly figure is over half the number of residents on-boarded in a whole year before Henley & Partners started promoting the Thailand Elite Residence Program,” says Volek. “These results are a testament to what can be achieved when likeminded stakeholders join forces in pursuit of a shared vision.”
Volek adds: “Overall, there has been a sharp increase worldwide in the number of individuals seeking to acquire a beneficial second or third residence or citizenship as a means of globalizing their family’s opportunities, improving their quality of life, and expanding their business interests. At the same time, more and more governments are seeing these programs as an innovative way of driving economic growth, securing much-needed foreign investment, and attracting people who have proven business success and valuable skills.”
The Thailand Elite Residence Program provides a multiple-entry visa to qualified applicants, allowing them to visit and reside in Thailand for a period of between five and twenty years, at a one-time cost of between THB 500,000 (approximately USD 16,000) and THB 2.14 million (approximately USD 68,000), depending on the option chosen. The program includes seven different options, which vary in the benefits, costs, and validity periods associated with them. The most popular options thus far are the five-year Elite Easy Access, the five-year, multi-person Elite Family Excursion, and the twenty-year Elite Superiority Extension.
The main target markets for the Thailand Elite Residence Program are, on the one hand, regular business travelers needing fast, hassle-free entry and exit into and out of the country and, on the other hand, retirees who, if they stay in Thailand for more than 180 days per year, stand to benefit from the jurisdiction’s favorable tax regime. For all categories of clients, many of the program options offer a range of value-added services, including an express counter at border control, airport lounge access, short-haul airport transfers, and access to luxury golf courses, spa treatments, and medical check-ups.
According to Volek, “interest in the program among Chinese nationals is picking up significantly, while citizens of the UK, Germany, Australia, the US, and Japan make up the bulk of the existing client base”. In terms of Henley & Partners’ service offering, Volek explains that the firm serves clients either in person, via one of its worldwide offices, or virtually, via its online portal, thailandelite-direct.com.
The Middle East has also quickly become a significant market for Thai tourism. Bata Racic, Manager of Henley & Partners in the Middle East, said: “Thailand has traditionally been a popular hotspot with travelers from the Middle East. In recent times, Thailand has grown in reputation for the medical services it offers and this has led to a spike in the number of people from this region traveling to the country for medical tourism. In 2015 alone, Thailand saw over half a million tourists from the Middle East, mainly from the UAE. Also, as a result of the travel ban introduced by US President Donald Trump, we definitely foresee a shift in preference from Middle Eastern nationals seeking alternative residence destinations.”
Yuthasak Supasorn, Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand and a member of the Board of Directors of Thailand Privilege Card Company Ltd., says the Thailand Elite Residence Program forms part of the country’s overall mandate of growing Thailand as a major hub for tourist and business travelers alike. “The program is a core pillar of Thailand’s vision for sustainable and responsible tourism. Committed investors are able to experience the benefits of Thailand as fully fledged residents while also contributing to the economic wellness of the country and its people. We are delighted by the program’s remarkable growth over the past year, and we are confident this growth will continue as more and more people around the world seek to join the vibrant Thai community.”
The Minister of Tourism and Sports of the Kingdom of Thailand, His Excellency Weerasak Kowsurat, affirms these sentiments, adding that the country has one of the most impressive development trajectories of any country in the world. “Thailand has progressed from a low-income to an upper-income country in less than a generation and is widely cited as a development success story,” says Kowsurat. “Rather than resting on our laurels, however, we are constantly seeking ways to innovate our business and tourism practices further. On the business side, the government’s strong investment in high-tech and logistics is helping put Thailand firmly on the global map, while on the tourism side, the Thailand Elite Residence Program is helping us draw valuable international contributors to our community. We are delighted to have Henley & Partners as our partner in this journey towards long-term growth and prosperity.”