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  • #61
    Immigration Bureau extends re-entry visas for foreigners with Thai residency

    Foreigners with Thai residency whose re-entry visas require their return to Thailand within one year from March 26 last year will be allowed to stay abroad until further notice, the Immigration Bureau said on Wednesday.

    The agency said it decided to relax the one-year re-entry requirement dating back to March 26 last year as the coronavirus outbreak still restricts all modes of travel.

    Bureau chief Pol Lt Gen Sompong Chingduang said the temporary easing of the re-entry rule was intended to help foreigners with Thai residency still stranded overseas.: https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand...thai-residency



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    • #62
      Vaccination packages mulled

      Tour operators have floated the idea of luring inbound travellers with vaccination tour packages after the first batch of inoculations are distributed to high-risk groups in February.

      "After the vaccines arrive, we need a tourism plan by the second quarter this year to create more demand," said Chamnan Srisawat, Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT) president.

      The one-month tour packages are expected to cost 150,000 baht, including a 14-day quarantine in an alternative state quarantine or alternative local quarantine facility and vaccination costs.

      The tourism plan aims to support inbound operators and hoteliers at major tourism destinations that still rely heavily on the international market after a long pause.

      If the Food and Drug Administration approves private hospitals reserving more Covid-19 vaccines, tour operators can partner with hospitals to offer jabs for foreign travellers, he said.

      Mr Chamnan said the idea is in the early stages of discussion and requires more consideration, such as the availability of vaccines in Thailand and a government determination of its likelihood.

      "Tourism-related operators will not be able to stay afloat until mass vaccination programmes take place globally," he said.

      "We still need financial relief from the government."

      Soft loans, a one-year debt holiday and 50% co-payment of monthly salaries are measures operators submitted to the government to help protect tourism jobs.

      Mr Chamnan said the council recently had a meeting with the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) to discuss future cooperation.

      The TCT plans to offer special packages for FTI members when the new wave of infections is under control, as there are around 100,000 workers in the industrial segment who have the potential to help drive more domestic trips.

      Chotechuang Soorangura, associate managing director of NS Travel and Tours, said there are still several uncertainties regarding travel rules with vaccine certificates that each country may require to prevent an outbreak.

      In addition, Thailand is not considered a Covid vaccine hub as the country cannot produce a mass supply attracting a large volume of tourists.

      "Most people would rather get inoculated in their own country before going abroad as they want to avoid being exposed to the virus while travelling," Mr Chotechuang said.

      There is also not much demand for Covid vaccinations in Thailand.

      The country should instead promote itself as a wellness destination for both tourists focused on health and well-being, as well as medical tourists seeking professional treatment in Thailand, he said.: https://www.bangkokpost.com/business...ackages-mulled



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      • #63
        Atta seeks vaccinated arrivals

        Offering an estimate of 80% of inbound travel companies closing, the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta) encourages the government to allow vaccinated visitors to visit the country without quarantine in the third quarter to boost demand.

        Around 30% of 10,000 registered inbound tourism companies have shuttered permanently, while half have stopped their operations temporarily because Thailand cannot receive international visitors, said Vichit Prakobgosol, president of Atta.

        Only 20% of inbound operators remain in business by pivoting to the domestic market, which is ravaged by the new spike in local transmissions.

        "Operators have to fight until the last breath to maintain business, at least until the third quarter when there's hope for a new flow of tourists," Mr Vichit said. "If inbound tourism can restart, the country's economic recovery will get back on track."

        As many countries have started mass vaccination programmes, operators in Thailand support the idea of exempting those from quarantine who are vaccinated against Covid-19.

        He said the number of people who receive jabs in the first half this year may exceed 1 billion globally, including potential tourists from China and Southeast Asia.

        The government has to start planning safe entry guidelines, such as requiring a swab test on arrival or a tracking application, said Mr Vichit.

        Atta, the Thai Hotels Association and the Association of Domestic Travel joined a meeting with the Tourism and Sports Ministry on Monday to discuss urgent relief measures.

        Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the tourism and sports minister, said he will submit the financial aid plan operators are requesting to the prime minister, making the proposal at today's cabinet meeting.

        The ministry also plans to discuss the initial idea of hotel quarantine (formerly known as area quarantine), which allows tourists to stay within hotel areas outside their rooms.

        If the concept is approved, the Public Health Ministry has to set the safety regulations within 1-2 weeks before proposing them to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration.

        "The special tourist visa aiming for long-stay tourists might fail to stimulate tourism," Mr Phiphat said. "But at least it helped assure locals that foreigners entering the country passed all the required safety regulations, which could ease quarantine rules."

        He remains confident the hotel quarantine programme will bring more inbound demand to Thailand.

        But the country will not rush into allowing inoculated tourists to enter without quarantine because it must wait for results from people who completed both doses of vaccine, leading to a discussion with the Public Health Ministry about further guidelines, said Mr Phiphat.

        "The government is working on a measure to prove foreign tourists are vaccinated, such as certifications or passport stamps," he said.: https://www.bangkokpost.com/business...nated-arrivals


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        • #64
          Thai hotel groups urge scrapping of quarantine rules for vaccinated tourists

          Thailand’s hotel operators are urgent the federal government to scrap quarantine necessities for overseas tourists who’ve been vaccinated for coronavirus in an effort to kickstart the paralysed trade.

          Two main hotel groups advised the Financial Times they supported ending the obligatory 14-day quarantine for non-Thai guests who might show they’d been vaccinated.

          “We should be very quickly allowing people who are safely vaccinated to travel without quarantine,” mentioned William Heinecke, chairman of Minor International, Thailand’s largest listed hotel and hospitality group. “There are tremendous numbers of people who won’t come to Thailand, or won’t come to any country that has a quarantine, because it takes too much time.”

          Tourism is Thailand’s second-largest trade, accounting for a couple of fifth of gross home product. The nation sealed its borders to most overseas guests final March and imposed strict testing and quarantine necessities on these searching for to enter.

          “The current quarantine restrictions are crippling our industry and having a massive impact on Thailand’s economy,” mentioned Suphajee Suthumpun, chief government of Dusit International, one other Bangkok-listed hotel group. “With foreign tourists accounting for around 70 per cent of the total industry, and with tourism representing around 22 per cent of GDP, it’s clear that we need to open the borders to vaccinated travellers as soon as possible.”

          Ms Suphajee mentioned employees in Thailand’s hospitality sector must be given precedence in being vaccinated. “This would also protect locals and travellers alike, and limit the risk of infection,” she mentioned.

          The pandemic has emptied out some of Thailand’s best-known points of interest, from the Andaman Sea islands within the south to Chiang Mai within the north, with authorities subsidies for Thais’ hotel stays making up solely half of the trade’s losses.: https://www.ft.com/content/d4a4dec0-...2-f898c4089df3


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          • #65
            Six golf resorts named as quarantine facilities

            The government has placed six golfing resorts on its list of Covid-19 quarantine facilities as Thailand eyes opportunities to reopen its international tourism sector.

            Three of the resorts are in the western province of Kanchanaburi, about two hour’s drive from Bangkok. Another is in Lamphun, half an hour’s drive from Chiang Mai.The six golfing quarantine resorts are:

            1. Mida Golf Club, Kanchanaburi province

            2. Evergreen Hills Golf Club & Resort, Kanchanaburi

            3. Blue Star Golf Course, Kanchanaburi

            4. Athitaya Golf and Resort Course, Nakhon Nayok

            5. Sawang Resort Golf Club and Hotel, Phetchaburi

            6. Artitaya Chiang Mai Golf club and Resort, Lamphun

            Meanwhile, the government has also added the centre of excellence for elderly care at Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University in Samut Songkhram province to its list of wellness quarantine facilities.: https://www.nationthailand.com/news/...ernal_referral


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            • #66
              Thailand - Tourism chiefs urge vaccine prioritization

              Tourism operators would like the government to prioritise vaccinations for people in major tourism destinations in the second phase, which is scheduled from May to December, in the hopes of restarting tourism.

              Vichit Prakobgosol, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, said most locals at tourism destinations heavily reliant on international markets should get vaccinated early.

              He said the number of people inoculated should be sufficient to create herd immunity in each province, ensuring the safety of both foreigners and locals.

              Locations such as Phuket, Krabi, Pattaya and Hua Hin that are the backbone of the tourism industry should be pilot provinces for the vaccination programme, said Mr Vichit.

              Those working in the service sector should be prioritised as the global population gets vaccinated. When tourists take outbound trips again, they may gain more confidence if locals destinations also have immunity, he said.

              Mr Vichit said the Food and Drug Administration needs to hasten the approval process for more vaccines and should facilitate a more convenient approval process for private hospitals that plan to import more vaccines.

              Employers who want to ensure health safety for their services by having their workers vaccinated would have more choices if they do not have to wait for government allocation.

              Mr Vichit said he's not worried about the slow pace of vaccinations and insufficient distribution in Thailand as the programme requires time to ensure safety and effectiveness.

              He said Thai tourism remains competitive despite trailing other countries in rolling out mass vaccination programmes, which should offer the country advantages by carefully monitoring results from other nations.

              "We need a well-designed plan to receive the flow of tourists who are already inoculated," Mr Vichit said.

              The association suggested the government speed up entry regulations to indicate readiness to welcome back international travellers.

              Suthiphong Pheunphiphop, president of the Thai Travel Agents Association, said intra-Asean travel is expected to be the first to rebound if mass vaccination programmes successfully contain the spread of infections.

              He suggested the country start travel bubble agreements from July, by offering quarantine-free travel between low-risk countries in Southeast Asia such as Singapore, Vietnam and Laos, which have consistently reported low infection rates.: https://www.bangkokpost.com/business...prioritisation

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              • #67
                Thailand arrests 89 foreign tourists for violating Covid-19 rules

                Thai police arrested 89 foreigners on suspicion of breaching coronavirus restrictions after raiding a party at a bar on a popular resort island in southern Thailand, police told CNN on January 29.

                Police said 22 Thais were also detained in the raid Tuesday night at 360 Bar on Koh Phangan, which is in the Gulf of Thailand off of Surat Thani.

                Attendants and organizers of the party are facing charges of violating an emergency decree which was put in place last March to combat the coronavirus. Most of them have been released on bail, and only 28 are still being detained, said Police Col. Panya Nirattimanon, chief of the Koh Phangan provincial police station.

                According to reports, police learned about the party when they saw tickets available for purchase online.

                Among the foreigners arrested were 20 French citizens, 10 Americans and six Britons. All of the arrested were swabbed by local health authorities and found negative for Covid-19, Nirattimanon said.

                "They are stranded tourists who can't leave Thailand due to Covid," Nirattimanon said. "They may think it is OK to gather in large groups and I think they may want to relax and have some fun."

                The maximum penalty for violating the emergency decree is two years' imprisonment and/or a fine of up to 40,000 baht ($1,330). The organizers are facing an additional charge of serving alcohol as this area in Thailand is banned from serving alcohol inside restaurants under the emergency law.

                Koh Phangan is a popular destination for backpackers due to its monthly full moon parties, which have been canceled.

                Thailand closed its borders to international tourism in April 2020. For the most part, the country remains off limits for all but returning nationals and permanent residents, though foreign tourists can apply for a Special Tourist Visa (STV).

                All international arrivals are subject to a 14-day quarantine at a state-approved facility.

                For months, Thailand reported few locally transmitted Covid cases thanks to its strict quarantine-on-arrival rules.

                However, a spike in cases in December following an outbreak at a shrimp market in Samut Sakhon, a province southwest of Bangkok, led the government to reintroduce various measures aimed at containing the virus.: https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/k...hnk/index.html


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                • #68
                  Vaccinated foreigners may be allowed to enter Thailand without quarantine

                  The Ministry of Tourism and Sports is considering plans to attract foreign tourists back to Thailand, and may allow vaccinated foreigners to enter the country without the need for 14 days in quarantine on arrival.

                  The Tourism and Sports Minister, Pipat Ratchakitprakarn,revealed today that the aim is to have 5-10 million foreign tourists enter Thailand this year, starting after the Songkran festival in mid-April, or in May at the latest. He added that, reaching the 10 million mark will depend on restrictions in countries like Malaysia, China and India.

                  The minister said that he will ask the prime minister for 5 million doses of anti-COVID-19 vaccine to inoculate people working in the tourism sector, with the main focus on Bangkok, Chonburi, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Krabi, Surat Thani and Songkhla, to build confidence amongst travellers.

                  Meanwhile, the governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Yutthasak Supasorn, is seeking ways to attract foreign tourists to Thailand. One of their ideas is a “vaccine passport”, which can be standardised and agreed between the national touristorganisations in all ASEAN countries.

                  Those holding such a “vaccine passport” will be allowed to travel between ASEAN countries without the need to undergo the 14 day quarantine. The TAT governor also expects that foreign travellers will be able to come to Thailand by the third quarter of this year.

                  Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Minor International group of companies, William Heinecke, said that they will send an open letter to the prime minister, containing these 4 suggestions:

                  1. Employees working in the tourism sector should be inoculated in the first phase, because flight attendants, pilots, hotel staff and staff working in hotels being used as quarantine facilities should be viewed as frontline personnel, just like medics

                  2. The government should consider acquiring vaccines from additional companies, besides AstraZeneca and Sinovac, as the vaccine acquisition process is still slow and insufficientto inoculate the entire population

                  3. Those who’ve been inoculated should be able to travel freely, both domestically and internationally, without undergoing 14-day quarantine.

                  4. Vaccine passports should be implemented, and Phuket should be the first province to implement the system, in order to allow foreign tourists to enter. If successful, other tourist reliant areas, such as Koh Samui and Pattaya, should also implement the system.: https://www.thaipbsworld.com/vaccina...ut-quarantine/

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                  • #69
                    Originally posted by S Landreth View Post
                    Vaccinated foreigners may be allowed to enter Thailand without quarantine
                    Should be a flood of tourists if this comes to be.

                    Most tourists only spend a week or two in Thailand anyway. Obviously no one wants to spend it in quarantine

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                    • #70
                      Thailand tourism officials aim for 5 million foreign arrivals this year

                      Thailand tourism officials are shooting for a goal of 5 million international arrivals this year. That may sound like a lot, but it’s half of the original forecast predicted for this year before the new wave of Covid-19 infections and a far cry from the roughly 40 million visitors welcomed to Thailand in 2019.

                      Tourism and sports minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn says Thailand needs to gain confidence between China, India and Malaysia to make sure tourists feel comfortable visiting Thailand. Tourists from China, India and Malaysia made up 40% of the 39.8 million arrivals in 2019.

                      “If we can attract 5 million tourists this year under the current circumstances, that would be a success… The number of travellers from long-haul destinations would be insufficient to reach the goal of 10 million arrivals.”

                      The Public Health Ministry is working on a Covid-19 “vaccine passport” which would be on a smartphone application or a smart card. Phiphat says that once the scheme is ready, tourists with the vaccine passport will be able to enter Thailand.

                      With Thailand’s mass Covid-19 immunisation plan expected to start within the next month, Phiphat says the ministry plans to talk with the prime minister and the Public Health about including tourism workers in the first round of vaccinations.

                      The first group to be vaccinated are frontline health care workers and people over 60 who live in areas classified as the highest risk of infection. Phiphat says people who work in the tourism industry should also be included in the first priority group. The Tourism and Sports Ministry is also urging the prime minister to allocate 5 million doses to cover 2.5 million people in the tourism industry.: https://www.bangkokpost.com/business...llion-visitors - https://thethaiger.com/news/national...vals-this-year


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                      • #71
                        Firms eye jabs as national agenda

                        The Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking (JSCCIB) suggests the government make Covid-19 vaccination a national agenda, with the tourism sector the first to receive vaccines as soon as July.

                        People working in the tourism industry should be receive in the first priority grouping as protecting them against the highly contagious virus should help restore the economy, JSCCIB member and chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries Supant Mongkolsuthree said on Wednesday.

                        They need protection as their jobs require them to meet and serve both Thai and foreign travellers.

                        To make the vaccination a national agenda, "JSCCIB wants the government to come up with a vaccine distribution management plan for its manpower to offer daily shots," said Mr Supant.

                        Mingkwan Metmowlee, president of the Asean Tourism Association, said the government should consider a vaccine cost subsidy based on the urgency of each tourism-related occupation.

                        She said independent tour guides are frontline workers who have to welcome and have close contact with tourists, and should be the first group to receive free vaccination from the government because they do not have a large company able to help cover the expenditure.

                        For some hotels that still earn revenue, such as alternative state quarantine facilities, they can be responsible for their own costs, said Ms Mingkwan.

                        The vaccine cost for workers could be added to service costs charged to guests, she said.

                        Thai Spa Association president Krod Rojanastien said the government should allocate Covid-19 vaccines to Thai workers in the hospitality sector with a full subsidy, as frontline workers in this industry need at least 5 million doses.

                        But for foreign workers in these companies, which usually make up no more than 10% of the workforce, employers are willing to pay for the jabs themselves, he said.

                        However, if the government could help with some of the cost, it would be a good initiative for the tourism industry, said Mr Krod.

                        JSCCIB also supports providing vaccinated Thais "vaccine passports" as proof to facilitate travel domestically and overseas.

                        "We are confident vaccine passports will help improve the economy," said Mr Supant.

                        The group suggested the government encourage employers to sponsor vaccination for migrant workers in exchange for a tax reduction.

                        These workers should also be given the vaccines from July, said JSCCIB.

                        Thai Chamber of Commerce chairman Kalin Sarasin said the chamber wants the government to help 1,800 hotels that could not access soft loans during the two Covid-19 outbreaks.

                        "JSCCIB is worried these hotels will lay off their workers because they are mostly medium to small hotels that cannot afford to pay operation costs, including salaries," he said.: https://www.bangkokpost.com/business...ational-agenda


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                        • #72
                          Minister seeks 5 million vaccine doses for tourism industry, pushes for vaccine visa

                          The Tourism Minister will discuss with the prime minister a request for 5 million doses of vaccination for the tourism industry and also push a vaccine passport measure to enable foreigners to return in the third quarter of this year.

                          Minister for Tourism and Sports Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said he is meeting Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha to request 5 million doses of vaccine for 2.5 million employees in the high-risk tourism sector, such as those who have duties to welcome foreign tourists, hotel staff, restaurant staff, tour drivers and spa staff, focusing on seven major tourist cities: Chonburi, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Krabi, Surat Thani, and Songkhla.

                          According to the reopening plan, Thailand will accept foreign tourists in the second half of this year, targeting 5-10 million visitors.

                          Yuthasak Supasorn, Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), said that TAT would find a way to bring vaccinated foreigners to Thailand, including urging the government to allow a vaccine passport. They will also discuss with the National Tourist Organisation (NTO) of Asean countries to issue visas together under the same standard for people in the Asian community to travel to other Asean countries without quarantine.

                          Besides, TAT has promised to start marketing aggressively. It has discussed with Middle Eastern airlines like Emirates, Qatar Airways, and hotels and travel operators to sell all-inclusive travel packages from March to April to attract foreign tourists to Thailand in the third quarter of this year.

                          Meanwhile, the private sector in Phuket's tourism industry has discussed plans to mobilise Covid-19 vaccination to open quarantine-free tourism to Phuket again on October 1, 2021, when at least 70 per cent of the population has been vaccinated, under the operation #phuketfirstoctober

                          Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, president of the Phuket Tourist Association, recently revealed that to be able to open to foreign tourists on October 1, 2021, without quarantine or #phuketfirstoctober, the Phuket team have to assess five factors and have already asked the government for clarity.

                          1. Quarantine requirement for vaccinated tourist and limitation on the type of vaccine used on a tourist if they are not inoculated with Sinovac or AstraZeneca vaccine.
                          2. Vaccination plan for Phuket
                          3. Local government's part to bring vaccine to the area faster.
                          4. Expanding the registration of other vaccines used in many countries to have sufficient applications
                          5. Additional measure for private individuals to purchase vaccines for employees of each business according to the capacity of each organization

                          He added that Phuket's tourism industry needs at least 70 per cent of the population to receive two doses of the vaccine by September 1, to build immunity before accepting vaccinated tourists from October 1.

                          “Phuket's private team has already negotiated to buy vaccines from private hospital chains. If the government approves the private sector guidelines, we should start injecting Sinovac's first dose before the Songkran festival (April) and gradually inject the private sector to complete as planned. The Phuket private sector has agreed that employees, especially in the tourism sector, will pay for vaccines themselves. For our future, we have to invest in ourselves,” said Bhummikitti.: https://www.nationthailand.com/news/...ernal_referral


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                          • #73
                            Krabi’s tourism sector sees light at the end of Covid tunnel

                            To see the disastrous impact of Covid-19 on Thailand’s tourism industry, look no further than Krabi. Tourist arrivals in the southern holiday province plummeted from an average of 6 million per year to just 1.5 million in 2020. Meanwhile tourism revenue fell from around Bt120 billion to only Bt29 billion.

                            Towards the end of last year it seemed the worst was over, but then came another calamity.

                            “There was hope when we saw some tourists return to Krabi after the first outbreak of Covid-19 in Thailand. But my businesses have suffered again from this second outbreak,” local restaurant owner Amarit Siripornjutagun told The Nation last week.

                            There were now 80 per cent fewer customers at his Ruen Mai restaurant, said Amarit. Before the pandemic the place was regularly packed. Nowadays, “they even have to queue for dining”, he complained.

                            Despite the downturn in business, so far none of his staff has been laid off. However, their hours would have to be cut if the virus situation fails to improve in February, he said.

                            Amarit said he wants soft loans to be made more accessible during this new outbreak, along with practical assistance from social security.

                            Meanwhile, Krabi city mayor Keeratisak Phukaoluan is confident the crisis will be resolved soon. He said the province plans to double the number of tourist arrivals in the future.

                            He cited the ongoing expansion of Krabi airport to accommodate parking slots for 30 jetliners. This will boost Krabi’s status as a tourism hub, thanks to its own attractions as well as those in surrounding tourism provinces such as Phuket and Phang Nga. Traffic in Krabi was also less congested than in Phuket, he added.

                            In more good news for the province, Absolute Clean Energy joined hands with Krabi City Hall on January 29 to build a zero-waste incineration plant. This will burn through 200 tonnes of daily waste in municipal areas and 800,000 tonnes dumped in local landfills since 1996.

                            The new waste-disposal facility would also help tackle the impact of increased tourist numbers in the future, Keeratisak said.: https://www.nationthailand.com/news/...ernal_referral

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                            • #74
                              There were now 80 per cent fewer customers at his Ruen Mai restaurant, said Amarit. Before the pandemic the place was regularly packed. Nowadays, “they even have to queue for dining”, he complained.

                              Despite the downturn in business, so far none of his staff has been laid off.
                              No wonder the customers eat elsewhere, as they have to queue nowadays even though all staff are there.
                              Lazy slackers!
                              Originally posted by Fluke;n188618
                              Why does the time state 02 38 PM , when no such time exists ?
                              It should be either 14 38 PM or 02.38 AM

                              Originally posted by Ergenburgensmurgen;n186588
                              What are you talking about, I don't post on Teakdoor.


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                              • #75
                                Quarantines are killing Thailand’s tourism industry, and not even a long holiday can offset 14 days of isolation

                                In the halcyon days of 2019, Thailand welcomed almost 40 million holiday­­makers from overseas. The average international hotel guest’s length of stay that year was 9.26 days, according to data platform Statista – precisely 4.74 days shorter than the quarantine period required from all visitors nowadays, which perhaps explains why so few tourists have taken the Land of Smiles up on its long-stay special tourist visa (STV) offer.

                                Launched in October to provide a lifeline to a depressed tourism-dependent economy, the STV scheme is open to travellers from all countries providing they present a negative result from a recent PCR test and isolate for 14 days on arrival. After quarantining at a government-approved hotel, tourists are free to roam for up to 90 days from their date of entry, with the option of extending the visa twice. In December, Thailand added the option of a shorter stay tourist visa, valid for a period of 60 days, with a 30-day extension allowed.

                                But news service Bloomberg reports that “Just 346 overseas visitors have entered the country on average each month on special visas since October,” citing figures provided by the Thailand Long­stay Company, which helps facilitate the travel permits. “That’s well below the government’s target of about 1,200 and a tiny fraction of the more than three million who came before the pandemic.”

                                By contrast, the Maldives – which relies on tourism more than almost every other country in the world – opened its borders in July with no incoming travel restrictions at all, a remarkably bold move in the middle of a pandemic. After a small number of arrivals tested positive for Covid-19 while on holiday, the nation introduced the necessity for a negative PCR result to enter from September 10 and has been receiving a steady stream of tourists since.

                                “The Maldives’ gamble to open borders in mid-July has begun to reap small but promising returns,” reported financial newspaper Nikkei Asia in October. After recording just 1,767 arrivals in the second half of July, the archipelagic state had welcomed a respectable 555,399 visitors by the end of 2020, more than 100,000 of whom had entered since the removal of restrictions in the summer. While that might be a fraction of 2019’s record 1.7 million arrivals, it’s not bad for a country whose borders were closed for four months.

                                By comparison, just 6.7 million people entered Thailand last year, according to the Ministry of Tourism & Sports, the lowest number since 2008.

                                The Maldives’ revival is being driven by tourists from Russia, Ukraine, India, Britain, Kazakhstan, France, Slovakia, the United States, Austria and Germany, according to English-language Maldivian news site Edition, all countries that don’t (or didn’t until recently) require quarantine from their arrivals, either.

                                In the halcyon days of 2019, Thailand welcomed almost 40 million holiday­­makers from overseas. The average international hotel guest’s length of stay that year was 9.26 days, according to data platform Statista – precisely 4.74 days shorter than the quarantine period required from all visitors nowadays, which perhaps explains why so few tourists have taken the Land of Smiles up on its long-stay special tourist visa (STV) offer.

                                Launched in October to provide a lifeline to a depressed tourism-dependent economy, the STV scheme is open to travellers from all countries providing they present a negative result from a recent PCR test and isolate for 14 days on arrival. After quarantining at a government-approved hotel, tourists are free to roam for up to 90 days from their date of entry, with the option of extending the visa twice. In December, Thailand added the option of a shorter stay tourist visa, valid for a period of 60 days, with a 30-day extension allowed.

                                But news service Bloomberg reports that “Just 346 overseas visitors have entered the country on average each month on special visas since October,” citing figures provided by the Thailand Long­stay Company, which helps facilitate the travel permits. “That’s well below the government’s target of about 1,200 and a tiny fraction of the more than three million who came before the pandemic.”

                                By contrast, the Maldives – which relies on tourism more than almost every other country in the world – opened its borders in July with no incoming travel restrictions at all, a remarkably bold move in the middle of a pandemic. After a small number of arrivals tested positive for Covid-19 while on holiday, the nation introduced the necessity for a negative PCR result to enter from September 10 and has been receiving a steady stream of tourists since.

                                “The Maldives’ gamble to open borders in mid-July has begun to reap small but promising returns,” reported financial newspaper Nikkei Asia in October. After recording just 1,767 arrivals in the second half of July, the archipelagic state had welcomed a respectable 555,399 visitors by the end of 2020, more than 100,000 of whom had entered since the removal of restrictions in the summer. While that might be a fraction of 2019’s record 1.7 million arrivals, it’s not bad for a country whose borders were closed for four months.

                                By comparison, just 6.7 million people entered Thailand last year, according to the Ministry of Tourism & Sports, the lowest number since 2008.

                                The Maldives’ revival is being driven by tourists from Russia, Ukraine, India, Britain, Kazakhstan, France, Slovakia, the United States, Austria and Germany, according to English-language Maldivian news site Edition, all countries that don’t (or didn’t until recently) require quarantine from their arrivals, either.

                                Notable by their absence are the Chinese. The “fast lane” arrangement between the Maldives and one of its most imp­ortant source markets, which would have exempted Chinese holidaymakers returning home from having to quaran­tine and was first reported on last June, appears never to have materialised. As a result, neither have travellers from the Middle Kingdom.

                                Anyone else noticing a pattern emerge?

                                The Thai Travel Agents Association (TTAA) has for months been calling for an alternative to arrivals having to isolate. Speaking to the Bangkok Post in November, TTAA president Suthiphong Pheunphiphop said, “Requiring quaran­tines is an obstacle to tourism. If people can travel without concerns about quar­an­tine, both in destination and origin countries, more trips will be made, even without a vaccine available.”

                                Comparing the Maldives’ (relative) tourism triumph with Thailand’s less successful situation – Nikkei reports that the current second wave of infections could cost the tourism sector 100 billion baht (US$3.3 billion) – there seems to be something to Pheunphiphop’s theory. Quarantines are killing the country’s travel industry.

                                Hope, meanwhile, is being placed in vaccines, which could prove to be the salvation of tourism operators everywhere. Industry website TravelDailyNews reported on January 27 that “Thailand is considering allowing vaccinated travellers to skip the mandatory quarantine” and that it “hopes to see travellers return by the third quarter of this year”. But, as the Bangkok Post reported, “The future might be too opaque to forecast, particularly regarding the effectiveness of each vaccine and the time needed to build up herd immunity in vaccinated nations.”

                                For the time being, quarantines remain perhaps the most effective way of ensuring arrivals don’t transmit the virus. That’s if there are any arrivals to speak of.: https://www.scmp.com/magazines/post-...urism-industry

                                Keep your friends close and your enemies closer

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