Thailand floats plan to welcome back international tourists in October

26-Aug-2020 Intellasia | CNN | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Hope is on the horizon for travellers wanting to spend their upcoming winter holidays in Thailandprovided they’re willing to spend several weeks in the kingdom and only stick to designated areas.

During a public forum held late last week, Thailand’s minister of Tourism Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said the country is aiming to allow foreign tourists to enter the country through a programme dubbed “Safe and Sealed.”

“I have asked the prime minister for approval to set October 1 as the date to allow (inbound) tourists to enter,” he said. “I also have requested to use Phuket as a pilot model… and have received approval from the centre for Economic Situation Administration.”

If successful, the project will be expanded to include other destinations.

In the beginning, tourists will be allowed to fly into PhuketThailand’s largest islandand will need to quarantine in a designated resort for 14 days.

Phiphat cited popular Patong Beach as an example of an area where this could work. Special one-kilometer zones consisting of three-to-four resorts could be set up there, allowing quarantined tourists to spend time on the beachso long as they stay in their designated area.

Travellers will need to get tested for Covid-19 at the beginning and end of their quarantine period. Then, they will be free to travel on the island.

But the minister says tourists who wish to travel beyond Phuket will have to stay in quarantine for an additional seven days and will have a third Covid-19 test at the end of that 21-day quarantine period.

Hotel staff who work in these designated zones will not be allowed to leave without first going into quarantine and will be tested regularly for Covid-19 as well to prevent the spread of the virus.

Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, tells CNN Travel the plan has been approved by the government and the next step involves holding a public hearing to get approval from local residents.

This is expected to take place in early September.

A step in the right direction

Like most countries that rely heavily on tourism, the pandemic has hit Thailand’s economy hard.

The country’s tourism sector normally contributes close to 15 percent of its GDP, according to the World Bank.

All international commercial flights have been banned, excluding repatriation flights. Thais and residents who do return on these flights are put into quarantine facilities for 14 days.

For now, domestic travellers are infusing some much-needed cash into the ailing industry. Thailand hasn’t reported a locally transmitted Covid-19 infection in more than three months, giving travellers a sense of security as they hit the road for weekend getaways.

But for destinations like Phuket and Koh Samui, which aren’t within driving distance of Bangkok, the lack of international tourists has been devastating.

Phuket-based Bill Barnett, managing director of Asia-focused consulting firm C9 Hotelworks, says the plan to welcome international travellers to Phuket is a step in the right direction.

“Covid-19 is unparalleled compared to other events but, looking at 9/11 and the restarting of travel, it was in baby steps, not giant steps,” says Barnett.

“‘Safe and Sealed’ is not a silver bullet but it’s a step forward versus assuming the ‘deer in the headlights’ position so I’d view it as positive.”

Dismissing criticisms the project may be too restrictive, he says Phuket has long demonstrated its appeal as a destination for “snow birds” looking to escape the winter season.

“Working a legacy segment that already stays for over a month during the winter is a rational step,” says Barnett, who notes that Scandinavians, Russians, Britons and Germans all return to Phuket each year as long-stay guests.

“One thing for sure is, once temperatures drop in Europe, the snowbirds will take flight, and logically Phuket should be (one of their) destinations.”


Category: Thailand

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