Several countries across the globe depend largely on tourism and Thailand is one of them. Thailand is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. As per the data released by the Ministry of Tourism and Sports of Thailand, about 39.9 million foreign tourists arrived in Thailand in the year 2019.
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The country is known for its versatility as it offers everything from pristine beaches, historic sites, luxury resorts, mouth-watering food, exciting nightlife as well as budget hostels. In other words, Thailand is an ideal international vacation spot for both budget-friendly backpackers as well as those seeking luxury getaways.
But like the rest of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has also spoiled the cards for the tourism business in Thailand. The ban put on international travel led to a drastic decrease in the number of foreign tourists arriving in Thailand. According to the data by the Thai Ministry of Tourism and Sports, only 6.7 million tourists arrived in Thailand in the year 2020. The Bank of Thailand further expects the number of foreign tourist arrivals in the country to reduce to 5.5 million in 2021 before reviving in 2022.
Although Thailand went into a lockdown in April 2020, it lifted its restrictions and allowed international tourists to enter its borders from December 2020. However, the lifting of the travel ban came with a few restrictions. Foreign tourists from all countries were allowed to enter Thailand as long as they undergo an RT-PCR test and a mandatory 14-day quarantine on arrival in the country. While the RT-PCR test should have been taken not more than 72 hours before their arrival in Thailand and they were allowed into the country only if they were tested negative for COVID-19. The tourists were also required to undergo a second COVID-19 test upon their arrival in Thailand.
Moreover, international tourists have to apply for a Thailand visa for tourists to enter the country. This visa will allow tourists to stay in the country for up to 60 days. They are also required to provide proof of valid travel insurance or travel medical insurance that will cover them against any hospitalization expenses arising out of COVID-19 during their stay in Thailand.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) announced a three-stage roadmap to reopen the country to international tourists. Approved by the Centre for Economic Situation Administration in Thailand, the roadmap listed down the country’s plan to reopen six major tourists provinces to international tourists who have been successfully vaccinated against COVID-19. These provinces include Phuket, Pattaya, Krabi, Chiang Mai, Phang Nga and Koh Samui.
In the first stage, starting from 1st April 2021 to June 2021, foreign tourists arriving in Thailand will be required to spend a mandatory quarantine of only seven days instead of 14 days. However, this 7-day reduced quarantine period has been allowed only to tourists arriving from non-high-risk countries that are free from any variants or mutations of COVID-19.
Besides, all tourists arriving in the country should be fully vaccinated at least 14 days before their departure to Thailand with an approved vaccine by Food and Drug Administration (FDA), World Health Organisation (WHO) or Thai Public Health Ministry. As per the Thai Public Health Ministry, the following is the list of seven approved vaccines for travellers arriving in Thailand:
In case an international tourist does not have proof of vaccination but is arriving from a non-high-risk country, then he/she will be required to undergo a quarantine period of 10 days upon their arrival in Thailand. Hotels in Thailand have already rolled out new quarantine packages for seven days and 10 days welcoming tourists to spend their quarantine period at alternative state quarantine hotels.
However, tourists arriving from high-risk countries with variants and mutations of coronavirus will be required to undergo a full 14-day quarantine. Thai Public health Ministry has listed 11 high-risk countries with coronavirus mutations and variants. They include South Africa, Congo, Kenya, Zambia, Ghana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Rwanda, Botswana and Tanzania.
Under the second stage, from July to September 2021, the Phuket Sandbox programme will kick in. As part of this programme, Phuket will become the first province in Thailand to lift quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated international tourists. This means that the international tourists arriving in Phuket, who have received both doses of one of the approved vaccines for COVID-19, will not be required to undergo any quarantine.
However, they will be allowed to undertake only travel activities within the designated places in Phuket for the first seven days. After completing seven days in the province, they will be allowed to travel anywhere else in Thailand.
As per the Director of TAT, Nanthasiri Ronnasiri, Phuket has been chosen as the first province to waive off quarantine because of its medical readiness, the capability of handling international airlines and effective cooperation between the public and private sector.
Under the third stage that will last from October to December 2021, the remaining five major tourist provinces in Thailand will join Phuket to waive off quarantine requirements for inoculated international tourists. These provinces are Krabi, Pattaya (Chonburi), Phang Nga, Chiang Mai and Koh Samui (Surat Thani).
The Government of Thailand may also implement a fourth stage starting from 1st January 2022. Under this stage, any fully vaccinated international tourist with a vaccine passport will be allowed to enter Thailand without the need for undergoing any quarantine period.
In a first, Phuket will allow fully vaccinated foreign tourists to enter the province without the need for quarantine starting July 2021. But to do so, the authorities need to fulfil the vaccination criteria to go on with the reopening of the island as planned. As per the proposed criteria, at least 4,60,000 people or 70 per cent of Phuket’s population should be vaccinated before July 2021 to create herd immunity against COVID-19.
To achieve the vaccination goal, Phuket has already commenced the vaccination drive in the province. As of 4th April 2021, about 20,000 hotel staff have been vaccinated through mass vaccination across the island. The province plans to vaccinate about 6000-7000 people every day and about 1,00,000 people by the end of April 2021.
The Thai Government has allocated an increased number of 1,00,000 doses to Phuket, up from earlier 16,000 doses, to meet the 1st July deadline to reopen the province. As per the President of the Phuket Tourist Association, about 9,20,000 to 9,30,000 doses would be required to meet the vaccination goals in Phuket.
Summing It Up
Thailand has unveiled an impressive roadmap to revive tourism in the country while keeping its citizens safe from COVID-19. Making Phuket the first province to waive off quarantine for fully vaccinated international tourists is a welcoming decision for foreign tourists as well as Thai locals dependent on tourism for their livelihood. The tourism relaunch is targetting tourists from as many as 28 countries across the globe and hopes to generate an estimated income of 30 billion baht (or USD 955 million) in the months of July to September 2021.