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  • #46
    The list……..

    Visa-free travel to Thailand for these 56 countries

    Despite the increasing trend of coronavirus cases, Thailand has announced the resumption of visa-free travel for citizens from 56 countries.

    In an attempt to revive its tourism industry, the latest scheme aims to attract more visitors due to the low applications for the two types of tourist visa – TR and STV – to the kingdom.

    Travellers from the following nations may travel to Thailand without the need to apply for a visa:

    Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bahrain, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Principality of Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, San Marino, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Republic of Slovenia, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America, Peru, Hong Kong, and Vietnam

    According to Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), although selected travellers can visit Thailand without a visa, they are still required to provide negative test result 72 hours before their flight and undergo the mandatory quarantine in an Alternative State Quarantine.

    Moreover, all travellers must undergo three Covid-19 tests while in quarantine, up from two required previously. He added that more testing could potentially lead to shorter quarantine periods in the future.

    Meanwhile, ASQ hotels rejoiced the recent move in tourism as this could help increase the flow of international tourists in the country that will increase bookings of ASQs. The ASQ Club Thailand has 119 members, with an inventory of rooms from club members of 15,000 units.: https://www.traveldailymedia.com/vis...-56-countries/

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    • #47
      Thai Travel Industry Faces ‘Nail in Coffin’ After New Outbreak

      As Phuket and other Thai tourist destinations prepare for a slight bump in business from the countdown to 2021, a new virus outbreak among seafood factory workers near Bangkok couldn’t come at a worse time.

      Thailand discovered a record cluster of infections in Samut Sakhon province last week, prompting a 14-day lockdown of the industrial district. The government is mulling whether curbs need to be expanded to other locales.

      Another nationwide lockdown or restrictions on domestic travel could be the “nail in the coffin” for many tourism-related companies, according to Phuket Hotel Association President Anthony Lark.

      “Everyone’s losing money and just trying to break even,” Lark said by phone Monday. “If the government can’t control the virus, and any domestic air travel or inter-provincial travel restrictions are introduced, then you will absolutely see hotel, restaurant and boat owners mothball their businesses.”

      Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha said on Monday that he will take about a week to assess whether more stringent curbs are needed.

      News of a widespread outbreak in a seafood market, which took Thailand’s total infections to 5,289 on Monday, came just a day after the government announced plans to ease some restrictions on tourists from 56 countries, including the U.S., Japan and Singapore.

      Thailand is betting on a revival in tourism to help it exit a recession, though the central bank forecasts it may take two years for Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy to return to pre-pandemic growth levels. Foreign tourist arrivals generated more than $60 billion in revenue from about 40 million visitors in 2019.

      While the international market has been virtually dormant for months, domestic travelers have kept many places afloat, including in Phuket, where businesses were counting on a bump during the year-end holidays.

      Travelers from the Thai capital account for 99% of Phuket’s tourists since the nation closed its borders late March, according to Lark. Before the pandemic, foreign tourists comprised two-thirds of the island province’s visitors but contributed about 90% of Phuket’s tourism revenue.

      “Bangkok weekend warriors have been propping up all supporting businesses,” Lark said, noting that some hotel occupancy rates have hit 80% at times. But new restrictions “would be the nail in the coffin for so many businesses who were already booked and waiting for tourists from Bangkok.”: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/artic...r-new-outbreak

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      • #48
        Tourism gloom 'won't improve'

        There is little hope of attracting international arrivals during the first quarter of next year as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread in Thailand, Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn says.

        Mr Phiphat said on Wednesday there is no need for the country to tighten travel restrictions on foreign passengers from the UK or other countries because there's no demand from tourists to visit Thailand at this time.

        The bid to lure international travellers by launching Special Tourist Visas (STVs) to attract long-stay tourists received a lukewarm feedback.

        "The ministry had discussed [the issue] with embassies in Thailand, and they all say that the winter season is the greatest test for the country's public health system to control the virus," Mr Phiphat said.

        He said Thailand expects to face a long period of "drought" in the international tourism market and that those who do travel here will be foreigners who have special purposes, not for tourism.

        He said tourism may restart after international flights return to normal which could occur in April, driven by the Songkran festival.

        If Thailand and China are ready to engage in more discussions on "travel bubbles" when winter ends, there's a higher possibility of attracting more travellers during summer next year, he said.

        Mr Phiphat, who is from Bhumjaithai -- the same political party as Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul -- added that the government approved a 45-billion-baht budget for the Public Health Ministry to battle Covid-19.

        Even though many countries have received vaccines and started to inoculate their residents, he said Thailand, which is scheduled to have its first jabs by the middle of next year, won't rush down the same path.

        "The Public Health Ministry is quite serious about the decision to wait and see the side effects thoroughly. We don't have to be a Covid vaccine guinea pig," Mr Phiphat said. He also said Thailand will get sufficient vaccine doses for everyone as the government has funds prepared.

        According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the country is looking to welcome more than 10 million international arrivals next year, generating 500 billion baht for the economy.

        In terms of the domestic market, after Thailand was hit by a recurrence of the pandemic and saw local tourists put their travel plans on hold during the festive season, the ministry arranged a meeting with the Thai Hotels Association on Wednesday.

        He said they reached an agreement to allow tourists to postpone hotel bookings via a government-backed subsidy campaign. "Hotels agreed to let local travellers reschedule their reservations in the campaign to six months and one year," Mr Phiphat said.: https://www.bangkokpost.com/business...m-wont-improve

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        • #49
          Thai immigration: Where do things stand?

          Thai Tourist Visas

          Presently, there appear (and appear is the operative word as the practicalities of consular processing protocols at Thai Embassies and Consulates overseas vary) to be multiple options for prospective tourists, with more alternatives possibly on the ways. The standard SETV (Single Entry Tourist Visa, sometimes also referred to as TR) is not widely available throughout the world and there are a number of foreign nationals using this to enter Thailand as of the time of this writing. Concurrently, the Thai government has taken recent steps to allow broad application for the newly promulgated STV (or Special Tourist Visa). Unlike the SETV, which only provides 60 days of lawful status with the option to extend by 30 days, the STV provides the bearer with the option of extending their status to a maximum duration of a possible 270 days (or 9 months).

          Non-Immigrant B, O, and O-A Visas

          The Thai government began allowing admission to Thailand for those business visa holders with work authorisation as early as July 2020. At the time, and presently, those wishing to enter Thailand for business purposes are likely required to have work authorisation either in the form of an issued Thai work permit or a WP3 work preauthorisation letter.

          Shortly after Immigration authorities permitted the returning of B visa holders, O visa holders who were immediate family of Thai nationals were permitted access to Thailand. Finally, in the late summer, those with Thai retirement visas could enter or return to Thailand. There was initially some confusion regarding whether those holding a Thai O retirement visa (as opposed to the Thai O-A retirement visa) would be permitted admission to Thailand. After some delay, this matter seems to have been resolved and those with a Thai retirement visa, of either O or O-A designation, were deemed admissible to Thailand.

          As of the time of this writing, the posture of all of the above visa categories remains unchanged and those seeking admission under the above categories may seek admission to Thailand.

          More: https://www.bangkokpost.com/life/soc...-things-stand-

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          • #50
            MFA launches passport kiosk

            The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will roll out the first automatic kiosk for passport renewal to reduce the risk of coronavirus being transmitted through human contact by the end of next month.

            Chatri Archjananun, director-general of the Department of Consular Affairs, said the first kiosk for passport extension will be launched on Jan 29 at MBK Centre.

            "After a trial, we will increase the number of machines to 15 by May. Ten will be available inside while the rest will be outside for off-hour services. It normally takes 12 minutes with staff, but it will be shortened to no more than eight minutes. Users must have their passport history and be at least 20 years old," he told a press briefing at the Office of Passport Division at the MBK Centre on Wednesday.

            Mr Chatri said the process will be paperless and will reduce human contact, making it safe during the coronavirus outbreak. Meanwhile, Tanee Sangrat, the MFA spokesman, said that almost 148,000 Thais had returned from abroad from April 4-Dec 29.

            "Some 115,096 returned by air, 30,373 by land, and 2,163 by sea. Of these, 1,115 are found to be infected, accounting for 0.76%. They were subject to 14-day quarantines and medical treatment. Almost all have recovered," he said.

            Mr Tanee said the Department of Consular Affairs has been working with the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) to allow 48 airlines to operate semi-commercial flights to enable entry by Thai and foreign nationals since Nov 1.

            "The Foreign Ministry has found that 13,241 Thais would like to return home in January (220 by land and 13,021 by air).

            "Some 38,611 Thais and 26,395 foreigners have registered online for a certificate of entry (COE). As of Dec 28, we have issued a COE to 58,371 foreigners," he said.

            Mr Tanee said the cabinet's approval for the online registration of illegal migrant workers from three countries to stay in Thailand for two years has received support from Thai businesses.

            The cabinet on Tuesday approved the registration of illegal migrant workers, allowing them to stay in the country for two years, to contain the novel coronavirus.

            Online registration would take place from Jan 25-Feb 13 and would allow Cambodian, Lao and Myanmar migrants to work in the country for two years, or until Feb 16, 2023, according to Deputy government spokeswoman Traisuree Taisaranakul.

            When asked by the Bangkok Post whether vaccination will be provided to them, he said the Foreign Ministry is discussing the matter with Myanmar authorities.: https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand...passport-kiosk

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            • #51
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              • #52
                British visitors to be barred from entry

                The Ministry of Public Health will ask the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) to defer the entry of British visitors to the country after the fast-spreading B117 strain of Covid-19 was found in four British nationals entering Thailand on Dec 21.

                Department of Disease Control chief Opas Karnkawinpong said on Sunday all passengers who were on board the same flight as the four and anyone who had come into contact with them had been located, tested and found to be clear of the virus.

                Dr Opas urged the public not to panic as Thailand is familiar with he fast-spreading Covid-19 strain -- known as G-strain -- found in Myanmar migrant workers. "B117 is similar to the G-strain from Myanmar in terms of it being fast-spreading," Dr Opas said.

                The four English patients are family members -- parents and two children -- from Kent. They have been placed in a hospital's negative pressure room to prevent transmission and will not be released until medical officials test and clear them of Covid-19 risk, said Dr Yong Poovorawan, a chief at the Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology at Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Medicine.: https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand...red-from-entry

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                • #53
                  Dozens of developers to join visa-for-property scheme: TPC

                  Thirty real estate developers will offer foreign buyers five-year visas in exchange for investing at least Bt10 million in property, under the “Elite Flexible One” card scheme launched on January 1 next year.

                  Thailand Privilege Card (TPC), which operates the scheme, said Raimon Land has already signed up three luxury condo projects, expecting sales of about 200 Elite cards. At least 30 more real estate developers have expressed interest in joining, said TPC president Somchai Sungsawang after launching the scheme on Monday.

                  The move is aimed at lifting a property sector slumping under the impact of Covid-19. “Most are large listed companies, with a lot of suggestions offered to increase customers and encourage more sales. The suggestions will be put to a [TPC] board meeting for further consideration," said Somchai.

                  He said that the purchasing power of foreigners is important to the tourism sector and related businesses in Thailand, which normally boasts the second-highest tourist volumes in Asia. Relaxation of the travel ban is expected to see about 1,400 Elite Card members enter Thailand this year. The TPC has set a target of 3,000 Elite Card entries in 2021.

                  About 70 per cent expressing interest in the scheme said they want to buy Thai property for residential use and long-term investment – with many choosing Thailand as a retirement destination. Most have high enough purchasing power to buy Elite cards priced at Bt500,000 to Bt2 million. To be eligible for an Elite Flexible One membership card, applicants must spend at least Bt10 million on condo-style property under the scheme. Elite Flexible One cards will be issued for a period of two years, from January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2022.: https://www.nationthailand.com/news/...ernal_referral


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                  • #54
                    Thailand: No plans to return tourism to pre-COVID crisis levels

                    Thailand is looking for investors outside the Tourism industry

                    Thailand’s authorities said they did not plan to return tourism to pre-crisis levels even after the normalization of the epidemiological situation with COVID-19, said Deputy Prime Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow.

                    Revenues from tourism account for up to 20% of Thailand’s GDP. According to 2019 data, the country’s tourism revenue amounted to $ 56.2 billion, but Thai authorities are not satisfied with this. The government believes that Thailand’s economy is too dependent on tourism.

                    “It is unacceptable to return Thailand to the pre-COVID-19 level of tourism dependency. As the global economy changes, we must be more active in attracting foreign investors to other industries. Our goal is to include Thailand in the list of 10 countries with the greatest ease of doing business,” said Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand.: https://eturbonews.com/2472247/thail...crisis-levels/

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                    • #55
                      Thai minister proposes 'golf quarantine' to boost tourism

                      BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand’s Tourism Minister said on Monday he had proposed a plan to allow foreigners to quarantine in some of the country’s many golf resorts to boost the ailing tourism sector during the coronavirus pandemic.

                      “We are discussing with the Public Health Ministry and the country’s coronavirus taskforce to offer hotel and golf quarantine for tourists with medical certificates,” Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn told reporters.

                      Foreign tourists would be able to spend the two-week quarantine period at a specified resort and move around in the hotel area and also play golf, he said, rather than just isolating in their rooms.

                      The plan, which is subject to the approval of the cabinet, comes as the Southeast Asian country grapples with a second wave of coronavirus infections after managing to largely contain community spread for months.

                      Thailand has reported a relatively low 10,547 COVID-19 infections and 67 deaths, though since several clusters emerged in December the country has been recording several hundred new cases a day.

                      Thailand attracted 40 million tourists in 2019 who spent 1.91 trillion baht ($63.4 billion), but the number of visitors dived during the pandemic after its borders were sealed, devastating hotels, restaurants and tourist spots that relied on foreigner visitors.: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-h...-idUSKBN29G0MU

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                      • #56
                        A how to guide to get your Thai COE (certificate of entry)

                        Thailand's COE registration guideline for air travelers during COVID-19 pandemic


                        https://coethailand.mfa.go.th/regis/step?language=en - https://coethailand.mfa.go.th/ - https://thaiembdc.org/notification/n...ioninthailand/
                        Keep your friends close and your enemies closer

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                        • #57
                          Hoteliers hesitant to embrace ASQ scheme

                          Hoteliers are delaying their decisions on whether to join the alternative state quarantine (ASQ) programme as the emergence of new local cases has slowed down bookings.

                          Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association (THA), said operators are likely to wait for the distribution of vaccines globally, which could result in an easing of quarantine requirements for visitors inoculated against Covid-19.

                          Thailand is expected to maintain a mandatory quarantine rule throughout the year, but it is difficult to predict demand, said Mrs Marisa.

                          She said some alternative local quarantine (ALQ) hotels in Phuket are considering whether to continue with the programme as international flights and tourists are still scarce, while a new surge in local infections has led to a deterioration in sentiment with regard to travel.

                          The Public Health Ministry has still not provided any concrete guidelines for hotels that want to withdraw from the programme.

                          However, THA would like the ministry to allow hotels to reactivate their ASQ or ALQ status if demand returns because certified hotels already invested a lot in securing that certification.

                          Prin Pathanatham, president of ASQ-ALQ Club Thailand, said the overall occupancy rate for ASQ hotels this month recorded a 30% drop to 6,000-7,000 rooms per day from its peak of 9,500 rooms in December due to the fresh wave of new infections.

                          The tepid response is expected to continue through February, with a 30-40% decline in forward bookings.

                          Mr Prin said foreigners postponed their plans because of uncertainties regarding interprovincial travel, while many countries are imposing new lockdowns, which has affected the number of active flights.

                          The club has 122 members categorised as ASQ hotels, with a total of 17,000 rooms.

                          "Even though vaccines are being developed, ASQ hotels still remain vital, at least until the end of this year," he said. "But services will change once members of the public become inoculated."

                          Possible scenarios include offering a service for people who receive the first dose of a vaccine and want to monitor the situation before receiving the second dose, or offering a service for travellers visiting the country on a short business trip who may wish to opt for an ASQ hotel, said Mr Prin.

                          The need for quarantine will remain so long as there are uncertainties regarding the effectiveness of vaccines, he said.

                          However, once quarantine is not compulsory and international flights resume, hotels may consider converting back to their normal operations, said Nattakorn Arunanondchai, managing director of Siam Mandarina Hotel, an ASQ facility in Bangkok.: https://www.bangkokpost.com/business...ace-asq-scheme

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                          • #58
                            Tourism fee to help insure foreigners visiting the kingdom

                            The National Tourism Policy Committee has approved the proposed guidelines for the collection of a 300-baht tourism fee from each international visitor for the management of local tourist destinations.

                            The money will also be used to provide insurance benefits to international tourists visiting the country.

                            Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said each foreign visitor will be charged US$10 (300 baht) per visit. The details of the fee collection will be announced in the Royal Gazette once the policy has taken effect.

                            According to Mr Phiphat, Thailand expects to receive some 10 million visitors this year.

                            He said the merit of the 300-baht tourism fee is that foreign tourists who fall sick or are injured will be taken care of and given adequate medical care.

                            The ministry will have to discuss the details with the Finance Ministry and the Office of Insurance Commission.

                            Of the 300-baht fee, 34 baht is expected to be used for the insurance coverage, Mr Phiphat said.

                            The fee collection is in line with the revised National Tourism Policy Act, which authorises the ministry to impose a tourism fee for use in developing local destinations and providing insurance coverage to foreign tourists.

                            Tourism permanent secretary Chote Trachu on Thursday said the fee collection was initially due to begin last year, but it was put on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

                            He said the National Tourism Policy Committee has assessed the situation and agreed the tourism fee collection should go ahead this year.

                            According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), the country had been forecast to close last year with merely 6.7 million international tourists -- not much more than the number prior to last year's outbreak of Covid-19 -- despite government attempts to activate entry schemes for foreigners via Special Tourist Visas (STVs).

                            With a second wave of outbreaks gripping many countries around the world, particularly during the winter months, triggering new rounds of lockdowns, Thailand is expected to wait longer -- until the second half of this year -- to see more visitors file back into the kingdom and revive the ailing industry.

                            While the TAT previously predicted the domestic market would reach 100 million trips last year, the recent spike in local cases led the agency to revise down the target to 95 million trips, a result of the partial lockdowns in some provinces.: https://www.bangkokpost.com/business...ng-the-kingdom

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                            • #59
                              Forgot to add the flights…….



                              https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets...gid=2090819543

                              Originally posted by S Landreth View Post
                              A how to guide to get your Thai COE (certificate of entry)

                              Thailand's COE registration guideline for air travelers during COVID-19 pandemic



                              https://coethailand.mfa.go.th/regis/step?language=en - https://coethailand.mfa.go.th/ - https://thaiembdc.org/notification/n...ioninthailand/
                              Keep your friends close and your enemies closer

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                              • #60
                                Thailand sold itself as a paradise Covid retreat. No one came

                                It’s hard to imagine a more luxurious place to spend two weeks of quarantine than the Anantara Phuket Suites & Villas, where visitors are pampered in private residences that can have their own pool and courtyard.

                                Yet more than three months after the resort and more than a hundred like it reopened to extended-stay travellers in an attempt to revive Thailand’s battered economy, foreign arrivals have failed to meet even rock-bottom expectations. Just 346 overseas visitors have entered the country on average each month on special visas since October, according to the Thailand Longstay Company, which helps facilitate the programme. That’s well below the government’s target of about 1,200 and a tiny fraction of the more than 3 million who came before the pandemic.

                                The tepid response to the country’s highly publicised reopening illustrates the difficulties facing tourist-dependent countries as they try to shore up economic growth while also protecting citizens from Covid-19 before vaccines become widely available.

                                The government had hoped to lure retirees escaping the European winter and others who could stay for an extended period. They would have to go through quarantine, but that could be done in the comfort of high-end resorts in a country that had been relatively unscathed by the pandemic. After two weeks, Thailand would be theirs to roam for as long as nine months.

                                The lack of interest is adding pressure on policy makers, who have struggled to accommodate both industry players calling for relaxed quarantine rules and public-health experts warning against putting people in danger. All the while, as the beaches stay empty, many tourism-related companies are going out of business. To make matters worse, virus cases have jumped in the country.

                                “It’s really challenging to balance the demands of the tourism industry and locals,” said Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, president of the Phuket Tourist Association. “I understand how hard it is to be stuck in a room for 14 days. I’ve done it. But the safety of the people gets priority because tourists come and go but locals live here.”

                                In 2019, the kingdom received more than 1.8 trillion baht in tourism revenue from about 40 million visitors. The industry contributed about a fifth of gross domestic product before the pandemic, compared to about 10% globally.

                                But six months without any foreign arrivals followed by months with just a trickle has battered the sector. At least 931 registered tourism-related companies closed last year, according to a Bloomberg News analysis of data from the Commerce Ministry’s Department of Business Development. The real number is probably much higher as many tourism businesses aren’t registered in any database.

                                On famed southern resort islands, the situation is particularly bad. Take Phuket, which got about 90% of its tourism income from foreign visitors before the pandemic. At Patong, its main tourist town, a once busy street of bars and nightclubs lies empty. Bangla Road is lined with shuttered businesses, with chairs stacked on tables and chains barring access. Dust gathers on the barstools and countertops. The few places that are open have barely any customers.

                                “When there are no foreigners, the area is just empty,” said Rungarun Loiluen, who works at The Kitchen, a restaurant and bar at the end of Bangla Road. She’s one of eight employees who kept their jobs from about 30 before the pandemic, albeit with fewer working hours. “There’s barely anyone walking down the road.”

                                On the next block over, Hotel Clover Patong Phuket has slashed its prices by as much as 75% to attract domestic travellers instead of its usual clientele of American, Russian and Chinese tourists. Still, it ran at about 10% occupancy in December, a period that used to be overbooked, according to Jessada Srivichian, the hotel’s country financial manager.

                                Despite the government’s efforts to help tourism businesses, such as subsidising the cost of hotel rooms, meals and airfares, domestic tourists who usually travel just on weekends can’t fill the gap left by foreign visitors. Even though only about half the country’s hotels have reopened, the average occupancy rate is only about 34%, Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said in an interview in December.

                                “I’ve been in Phuket for 20 years and have never seen it this quiet,” Hotel Clover’s Jessada said. “We need international visitors. We’re not thinking of making a profit but instead focusing on minimising losses, because as long as there’s a quarantine requirement, people won’t come.”

                                The government should consider waiving the two-week isolation requirement for visitors from regions of countries with no local infections for more than 60 days, Vichit Prakobgosol, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, said in late September. He was hoping to have the rule relaxed for visitors from some parts of China, Thailand’s biggest source of tourism income. But no such deal was concluded.

                                “It seems impractical to double the duration of a trip to satisfy the local quarantine requirements,” said Ron Cooper, an American photographer and business consultant who travelled abroad for leisure several times a year before the pandemic. “Add to that the cost of staying in a hotel for two unproductive weeks -- not a very attractive proposition.”

                                Thailand’s approach contrasts with other tourism destinations that have been less cautious. The Maldives reopened to overseas tourists in July without requiring a quarantine, although a negative Covid-19 test is needed. The archipelago has seen more than 172,000 arrivals since then, according to Maldives Immigration data. While new infections increased in the aftermath, they’ve since declined.

                                “It was bold, daring to open up the Maldives with all the risks attached to it,” said Dirk De Cuyper, chief executive officer of S Hotels & Resorts Plc, whose December occupancy rate at Maldives properties was 70%. And that might be bad news for Thailand, he said. “Many travellers won’t buy into quarantine, particularly when other countries are opening up and they have no quarantine rules.”

                                But most Thais opposed the reopening plan and are unlikely to want relaxed quarantine rules, partly because local residents live close to the resorts, unlike in the Maldives where properties are often isolated on their own islands.

                                “If I had to choose between health and income, I’d choose health,” said Wiparad Noiphao, a fruit and vegetable vendor at Banzaan fresh market in Patong. “We have to prioritise safety.”

                                As a compromise, the government’s Covid-19 task force discussed shortening the quarantine period to 10 days. But that has yet to be implemented because of concerns about new infections. The government has also approved six golf resorts as quarantine centres.

                                “Any modification to the original plan would mean higher risks,” said Thira Woratanarat, an associate professor at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Medicine. “There are many examples of free international travel that led to a resurgence,” he said, giving the example of Europe. “We should wait until the global virus situation has improved.”

                                A resurgence of the virus has also weakened the case for easing quarantine rules. Thailand has seen Covid-19 infections more than double to more than 12,000 in less than a month. An outbreak that began in seafood markets and migrant communities has spread throughout the country. The government curbed travel in some high-risk regions but has so far refrained from imposing a broad lockdown. It has also extended its travel-subsidy program.

                                Ultimately, the country won’t fully reopen until vaccines are widely available, government officials have said. The government plans to offer the shot developed by Sinovac Biotech Ltd to frontline health workers and those with underlying conditions before the end of February. From May, it will give one by AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford, aiming to inoculate at least 33 million people, about half the nation’s population, by the end of 2021.

                                Questions remain about how international tourism will function as more people become vaccinated worldwide. Vaccine passports are seen as a way to get people travelling again, but whether and how they will be implemented is still unclear. It’s not even known whether vaccinated people can transmit the virus.

                                Taking all this into account, the Bank of Thailand estimates that even in 2022, overseas visitors will still fall well short of the 40 million in 2019. It projects that 5.5 million people will visit this year and 23 million in 2022.

                                The economy is estimated to have contracted 6% in 2020, the biggest decline since the Asian financial crisis. It’s projected to expand 3.5%-4.5% in 2021, according to the National Economic and Social Development Council.

                                Despite the hit to the economy, the Phuket Tourist Association’s Bhummikitti says Thailand’s cautious reopening plan was the correct option, and the embattled tourism industry has little choice but to wait for vaccines to take hold.

                                “We can’t close our borders forever, and we can’t let people in without strict measures in place,” he said. “So this controlled, gradual reopening is the best approach.”: https://www.bangkokpost.com/business...at-no-one-came -

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