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Thai Visa’s while under Covid

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  • #16
    Private pools, fancy meals in Phuket's 'gilded cage' quarantine

    A private infinity pool, gourmet meals -- and two temperature checks a day. Welcome to five-star quarantine in Phuket, where well-heeled tourists can live in luxury while obeying some of the world's strictest anti-coronavirus measures.

    After barring visitors for six months, Thailand is reopening to a small number of holidaymakers, with the first batch arriving on the southern resort island in the coming weeks.

    But before enjoying the beaches, the 300 tourists from China and Scandinavia will have to complete 14 days of compulsory quarantine, including two coronavirus tests, overseen by a "war room" of doctors and security guards.

    "It will be comfortable but I am afraid I might be anxious because of the confinement," said Jean-François, a French retiree living in Sweden who hopes to escape the winter in the kingdom.

    At The Senses Resort overlooking Phuket's Patong Bay, 16 villas have been specially prepared for quarantine guests.

    The villas, which are up to 220 square metres, were redesigned, getting rid of cushioned surfaces to make disinfecting easier, while CCTV security cameras have been installed at the entrances.

    Employees have also received training at a hospital in how to spot infections, and given personal protective equipment to deliver room-service meals.

    - 'Not much profit' -

    "We won't make much profit from these special clients because of the expenses involved," says hotel owner Suppachoke Laongphet.

    But "we had to find other sources of income to support our staff and the local economy".

    His resort is one of nine properties in Phuket -- mostly luxury hotels -- with government approval for quarantining guests.

    Upmarket quarantine does not come cheap: confinement at The Senses runs to about 170,000 baht, or 590,000 for a family of four. If the Phuket model proves successful, the government will attempt to replicate it in the rest of the country.

    Once visitors finish quarantine, they can stay and travel freely for three to nine months on a special visa created to revive tourism.

    Expectations for a record 40 million visitors this year were dashed after the coronavirus put global travel on hold, sending the economy into free-fall.

    Border closures in April meant an immediate freeze to the incomes of millions of Thais working in the sector -- with knock-on effects on the service and restaurant industries.

    Before the pandemic, tourism generated 93% of Phuket's income. Today, nearly all hotels and more than 70% of the island's businesses are shuttered, officials say.

    But Thailand has emerged relatively unscathed from the virus with just 59 deaths, and authorities are hoping travellers can be lured back despite having to abide by strict -- and costly -- quarantine measures.

    The number of visitors under the new visa scheme will likely be limited -- "just those with the means and who wish to stay several months in our country", says Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, president of the Thai Hotel Association's southern chapter.

    But a tourism revival -- however small -- is sorely needed, he says.

    "This is not what will sustainably improve the economy of the country but it allows us to be patient."

    At The Senses resort, visitors will wake up to a view of the island's lush sloping mountains and can swim laps in each villa's infinity pool.

    But attempting to leave the room could bring police at a guest's door within 15 minutes, said Thanchanok Pramkull, the hotel's deputy commercial director, while an infected guest can be taken to hospital within half an hour.

    Completing quarantine does not ensure unfettered freedom – premier Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has said visitors' whereabouts will continue to be tracked via mobile phone apps.

    But the strict rules have not deterred interest. About 20 people from India and Europe have already contacted the hotel since it got approval for the programme.

    "It is effectively a gilded cage," says a 50-year-old Danish visitor planning a stay at The Senses, who declined to be named.

    "But it's worth it. After the quarantine we will be able to enjoy beautiful sunsets in one of the safest places in the world for Covid.":

    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


    • #17
      Looser quarantine eyed/More freedom to move in first 14 days

      The Ministry of Public Health has proposed a new type of Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) that will allow short-term visitors to travel to designated areas during their 14-quarantine period in some selected provinces.

      Director-general of the Health Service Support Department, Thares Krassanairawiwong, said a new type of ASQ was being discussed for short-term visitors in the provinces ready to reopen.

      This type of ASQ would allow tourists to travel to designated areas during the 14-day quarantine period instead of confining themselves to hotel premises, the doctor said.

      The new ASQ will come with terms and conditions to be discussed between government units and entrepreneurs.

      People in each of the provinces must be informed of the new ASQ and approve of it, the official said.

      He stressed the new ASQ must be based on safety and economic viability.

      Foreign visitors must accept travel routes set by the provinces and must not veer off course. Most importantly, they must come from countries with low Covid-19 risk and no local infections for three months, Dr Thares said.

      Tourists must test negative for the virus in 72 hours prior to departure and stay in home quarantine for 14 days before leaving their country. They must also book flights and accommodation through travel agents.

      The provinces which are ready to reopen must make sure that routes for foreign visitors will not be used by local residents. Recommended activities for tourists include wellness tourism activities such as massage, spa and gastronomic tours.

      Hotels where they can stay must be hotels with SHA (Safety and Health Administration) standards, the doctor said.

      The areas where foreign tourists can visit will be fixed, he said.

      They are required to use tracking devices with representatives of agencies responding to Covid-19 travelling with them at all times.

      The doctor added that provinces eligible for the new type of ASQ must have adequate public health systems and hospitals with the capacity to treat Covid-19 patients. The hospitals must also be equipped with negative pressure rooms and laboratories.

      Many provinces, most of which are tourism provinces, have shown an interest in offering the new type of ASQ such as Chon Buri, Buri Ram, Rayong, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket and Surat Thani, said the doctor.

      Chon Buri seems most ready for the new type of ASQ, judging from local entrepreneurs' enthusiasm and the province's experience in managing state quarantine facilities, according to the doctor.

      "The new type of ASQ is another way to get foreign tourists to help stimulate the economy," he said.

      At present, Thailand has 55 SQ facilities, 84 ASQ and Alternative Local State Quarantine facilities and 154 Alternative Hospital Quarantine facilities for foreign patients and their caregivers.

      They are required to be quarantined during treatment in Thailand for at least 14 days and have three Covid-19 tests.

      "We have prepared 2,000 hospital rooms and 13,009 hotel rooms to accommodate foreign visitors on leisure and business trips.

      "We are confident that international travellers will be able to visit Thailand from Oct 15 onwards. We are ready to take them," the director-general said.

      Over 1,000 foreign patients of other diseases and caregivers have entered Thailand by land, water and air since the government started to lift restrictions, generating over 200 million baht for the country, he said.

      Thailand is in the process of preparing Wellness Quarantine facilities, such as spas and massage parlours, for medical tourists such as the elderly from other countries.

      The government launched a Special Tourist Visa (STV) programme on Oct 1.

      Holders of this special visa will be allowed to first stay in the country for 90 days and then renew the visa twice for 90 days each time.

      Cabinet members will have a mobile cabinet meeting on Nov 2-3 in Phuket to listen to the views of residents and business operators on how to help rebuild Phuket, which was badly affected by the pandemic.:

      Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


      • #18
        Weighing the consequences/As pressure rises to reopen tourism with laxer measures, operators are growing hopeful

        What is the real cost for tourists when planning an outbound trip to Thailand in the Covid-19 era?

        Apart from sufficient budget for a quarantine facility, which for the most luxurious trip can be as high as 300,000 baht per person, tourists must consent to dedicated extra time for a 14-day quarantine -- a condition that only allows people who don't have time and money constraints to visit the country.

        While high-net-worth travellers may agree to spring for vacation here, their visits will be just a drop in the ocean when compared with 1.9 trillion baht Thailand recorded last year from foreign tourist receipts.

        According to data from the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), the upscale market or those earning over US$60,000 a year made up less than 20% in the past five years as officials struggled to generate a healthier portion of high-end travellers.

        In the past, the TAT avoided mentioning the targeted number and stressed the importance of the revenue goal instead, but volume was always in the limelight.

        Last year, when foreign tourist arrival numbers nearly hit 40 million, major revenue sources came from short-haul markets in Asia.

        Since the strict lockdown was eased in the second quarter, the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta) has repeatedly called for a shorter quarantine period or, ideally, no compulsory quarantine to attract intra-regional travellers who don't want to spend two weeks in confinement for their four- or five-day trip.

        To be specific, the association pointed to a few potential markets, the likes of China and Taiwan, that are considered low-risk countries.

        If applied, the scheme would draw 100,000 travellers a month and help repair the broken tourism engine with at least 5 billion baht in revenue, Atta said.

        Tour operators pledged to responsible for those tour groups to calm public concerns.

        "With mandatory quarantine in place, nobody wants to visit Thailand. But if the government allows tour operators to cater those guests, I'm confident that we can contain the virus spread and reignite our economy at the same time," said Vichit Prakobgosol, Atta's president.


        Hong Kong and Singapore recently reached agreement on a travel bubble policy, which will soon let people from those two countries travel back and forth without being quarantined.

        Mr Vichit said the decision is unavoidable for any tourism-led country that wants to save itself from peril.

        During the crisis, businesses that could redirect to domestic customers tended to have a better recovery pace than those heavily reliant on international guests.

        Some 62.5% of travel companies have reopened, but that rate pales compared with the overall average of 78.2%, according to the latest statistics from the TAT.

        A poll of 682 tourism-related operators found that 100% of car rental services have resumed business as people avoiding public transport in the wake of the pandemic, followed by restaurants (89.2%) and hotels (81.6%).

        Due to international travel restrictions still in place, most (93%) tourism customers are Thais, up 31% from the pre-Covid period.

        Mr Vichit said local communities should accept that special international groups allowed in earlier and those applying for a special tourist visa (STV) are not enough, as the expected number is just 1,000 per month, a far cry from the monthly figure of 3 million last year.

        "The STV model with a 14-day quarantine is only a minor remedy to the large-scale devastation of the tourism industry," he said.

        The Atta president insisted that achieving 100,000 tourists is not a far-fetched goal, given that in a normal situation tourists from low-risk countries total at least 1 million per month.

        "If just 10% of them return, the tourism industry and overall economy will rebound," Mr Vichit said. "At present, there're many cities that are free from the virus for longer than 60 days, so why can't we start with a few of them."

        He said there's also pent-up demand from tourists who have been travelling domestically -- a noticeable trend shown during this month's Chinese National Holidays, which spurred 650 million trips in the mainland.


        There were positive signs for tour operators last week when the Public Health Ministry floated the idea to shorten the standard quarantine period from 14 to 10 days for visitors from low-risk countries, including China, Taiwan, New Zealand and Australia.

        The risky attempt is seen as an effort to drive the tourism engine amid negative factors awaiting this quarter, such as the end of the first-phase debt moratorium period for small and medium-sized enterprises on Oct 22.

        Tony Fernandes, chief executive of AirAsia Group, said keeping borders closed is not a solution in a globalised world, as Thailand and most countries in Asean depend on tourism.

        Testing on arrival without a mandatory 14-day quarantine is the preferred solution for post-outbreak travels.

        A strong contact tracing app is also important to detect people who have been in close contact with Covid-19 patients, in case the number of cases start to flare up.

        "At some point, countries have to take a little bit of risk to reopen, as we cannot live in a cave for the rest of our lives," Mr Fernandes said.

        Moreover, vaccine development and distribution will take time.

        "We have to live with this virus as we have with others before like the common cold or dengue," Mr Fernandes said.

        While the airline waits for borders to reopen after the outbreak, AirAsia has to focus on the domestic market as demand for short-haul work and travel still persists.

        Mr Fernandes said air travel will not change much relative to the impact of the 9/11 attacks, which demanded airlines adapt to new strategies.

        Still, there are a lot more health-related regulations to be added to deal with the situation, he said.


        Opening the country to foreign visitors may not necessarily be an economic booster, but it is an attempt to learn how to deal with Covid-19 risks that transcend frontiers, said Tanit Sorat, vice-chairman of the Employers' Confederation of Thai Trade and Industry (EconThai).

        The relentless spread of Covid-19 in many countries, including the US, India and Myanmar, and the revival of the disease in European countries like Britain, makes it hard to predict if this is the right time for international tourism.

        Mr Tanit said he is "not confident" tourists will enjoy a trip to Thailand while businesses in their countries are slammed by the pandemic.

        The number of foreign travelers is likely to be small relative to pre-Covid figures. Arrivals will stimulate the economy only for some local business operators and in certain areas, Mr Tanit said.

        "Opening the country to thousands of tourists cannot immediately restore the Thai economy, as we usually welcome 3 million tourists on average per year," he said.

        But this does not mean the entry for foreign visitors should remain shut.

        The government should open the country as an "experiment" to see how it can manage risks, he said.

        "But they must be quarantined for 14 days," Mr Tanit said.

        For foreign businessmen who only come to Thailand for errands or contract signing, the government should hold business meetings for them inside state quarantine venues, he said.

        The Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) agrees that the 14-day quarantine is appropriate if the government allows international arrivals to resume.

        "Opening the door to foreign tourists will put Thailand at risk of a second outbreak, but the economy needs restoration," said Kriangkrai Tiannukul, the FTI's vice-chairman. "The 1.9-trillion-baht stimulus programme to help the economy is not enough."

        Analysis from health experts at the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) are needed to help the government strike a balance between disease prevention and economic rehabilitation.

        "The government cannot listen only to the CESA," said Mr Kriangkrai, referring to the Center for Economic Situation Administration. "They need to heed facts and recommendations presented by both groups."

        Authorities must make careful decisions because some business people are calling on the government to relax measures to screen foreigners.

        Harald Link, chairman of B.Grimm Group, Thailand's oldest trading conglomerate, suggests the government relax the measures so that Thailand can remain attractive to foreign businessmen planning to invest in the country.

        These investors are looking for new locations to set up their production bases in Asean, so "if the measures are too stringent, our economic development may be affected", he said.

        Flights to Thailand have become scarcer compared with those to Vietnam, not to mention the cheaper electricity rate in the neighbouring nation catching investors' eyes, Mr Link said.

        If lenient measures lead to another domestic outbreak, it should not be difficult to curb the problem, he said.:

        Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


        • #19
          Due to international travel restrictions still in place, most (93%) tourism customers are Thais
          Oh, who would have guessed.
          Dont get sick of me just yet, for I will be here for quite a while


          • #20
            Thailand is fooked beyond repair,

            good news for old timers;


            • #21

              Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


              • #22
                Thailand to welcome its first group of STV tourists today

                The first group of 41 tourists travelling on the Special Tourist Visa (STV) from Shanghai will land in Suvarnabhumi Airport on Tuesday at 5pm, a second group of 100 people from Guangzhou will fly in on October 26 and another group will be flown in from Shanghai on October 28.

                Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), said on Tuesday that flights for future STV tourist groups from Europe are still considering which airport they will land in, as it may depend on where the tourists have booked their 14-day mandatory quarantine.

                “I confirm that all foreigners who are arriving will have strictly complied with health measures. They will undergo the 14-day quarantine in alterative state facilities, and if they are clear of infection, they will be allowed to travel around the country. However, each tourist will be required to have a tracker app. Most of them, so far, have expressed a desire to travel to the beaches once their quarantine is complete,” Yuthasak said.:

                Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                • #23
                  First group of Chinese visitors arrive

                  The first group of Chinese visitors since the Covid-19 outbreak forced the closure of Thailand's borders in March arrived at Suvarnabhumi airport from Shanghai on Tuesday, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

                  The 41 Chinese visitors on a Special Tourist Visa (STV) -- which was recently approved by the cabinet to restart the country's pandemic-battered tourism industry -- arrived on a special Spring Airlines flight at 5.10pm yesterday, TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said.

                  Mr Yuthasak said the tourists have entered the 14-day mandatory quarantine in Bangkok. "Most of them planned to visit the beach and they already reserved hotel rooms," he said.

                  Upon arriving, the tourists were required to download a tracking app on their smartphones. The STV allows them to remain in the kingdom for up to 90 days, and is renewable twice.

                  Mr Yuthasak said more Chinese visitors are on their way, with 147 due to arrive at Suvarnabhumi airport from Guangzhou on Oct 26. TAT estimated that each tourist would spend around 800,000 baht during their stay in Thailand.

                  A group of 120 visitors from Guangzhou were supposed to arrive in Phuket on Oct 8, but their trip was postponed as the island's authorities were concerned they might not have the manpower to deal with the tourists' arrival, which coincided with Phuket's annual vegetarian festival, according to the Sports and Tourism Ministry.

                  Meanwhile, Thai Airways International (THAI) announced it will fly 120 Chinese visitors with STVs to Thailand on Oct 28, the airline announced.

                  The special flight will pick up tourists from Shanghai, along with individuals of various nationalities with a medical visa, as well as Thais returning home from China, said Wiwat Piyawiroj, THAI's executive vice president for commercial operations.

                  The flight will depart Shanghai at 5.20pm on Oct 28 and arrive in Bangkok at 9.15pm on the same day.

                  Chinese tourists accounted for most of last year's tourist arrivals, with 10.99 million visitors arriving last year.

                  The TAT governor said the return of foreign visitors signalled a recovery, which has been made possible by a raft of tourism-related incentives.:

                  She’s got it covered: A woman in full protective gear makes her way through Suvarnabhumi airport yesterday after clearing immigration and passing her Covid-19 health checks. She was among the first group of Chinese visitors to come to Thailand courtesy of the new Special Tourist Visa (STV).

                  Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                  • #24
                    First batch of tourists Covid-free/More arrivals from China due this month

                    The result of the first Covid-19 test on arrival for 39 Chinese tourists who travelled using the special tourist visa reported no positive cases.

                    Another two groups from China are scheduled to arrive on Oct 26 and Oct 28, while Scandinavian travellers queue up for November, said Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the tourism and sports minister.

                    He said the ministry has not received additional inbound requests from other countries.

                    The ministry plans to consider the consequences from the first stage of reopening.

                    If a new flow of tourists arrive without any positive cases, the government is ready to implement a more relaxed quarantine, but this requires approval from the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration first, said Mr Phiphat.

                    "Europe now faces a second wave," he said. "The Tourism and Sports and Foreign ministries will allow tourists from low-risk cities with zero new cases for more than 30 days."

                    The Tourism and Sports Ministry reported tourism receipts in the first nine months were 655 billion baht, down 70.6% from the same period last year, or a decrease of 1.57 trillion baht.

                    The number of international arrivals dropped 77.3% year-on-year, as the figure remained at 6.69 million for six consecutive months from April to September.

                    International revenue was stagnant at 332 billion baht, down 77% or 1.1 trillion baht shy of the same period last year.

                    Meanwhile, domestic tourism from January to September totalled 52.7 million trips, a plunge of 54.7%. Local tourism contributed 323 billion baht to the economy, down 59.5% year-on-year, a decrease of 474 billion baht.

                    Domestic trips gradually picked up since the government relaxed some restrictions on interprovincial travel in July. September accounted for 8.58 million domestic trips, the highest monthly figure since the outbreak, yet still 35% less than the tally for September 2019.

                    Mr Phiphat said the number of domestic trips is expected to reach 9-10 million during the high season thanks to nice weather and the domestic stimulus campaign, which has been extended to Jan 31, 2021.

                    However, the average hotel occupancy rate nationwide in September remained soft at only 27.9%. The ministry reported hotels in second-tier provinces, especially small cities, had a faster recovery than hotels in major provinces, which rely heavily on foreign tourists and often have a glut of accommodation.

                    The volume of domestic air flights was 16,229 in September, reported Aeronautical Radio of Thailand. For provincial airports, Chiang Mai recorded the highest number of flights at 3,382, followed by Phuket (2,160), Hat Yai (2,101) and Nakhon Si Thammarat (1,584).:

                    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


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