The Tourism Minister envisages the return of tourism under tightly controlled conditions in August with access only to popular tourist hotspots for bookings made through agencies. The countries from which tourists will be accepted will become clear in two weeks. Meanwhile, foreigners are processing applications to enter the kingdom on a case by case basis with each returnee being forced to pay between $4,200 to $5,000 to go home to Thailand.
There appears to be a renewed impetus from the government to kickstart tourism after Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn revealed on Thursday that a 3 phase plan to reopen the kingdom to safe Covid 19 countries of origin would begin in August with a target to recover 35% of last year’s tourism numbers and see 14 million tourists visit the country in 2020. This would be well ahead of current projections.
Thailand’s Tourism Minister on Thursday signalled his intention to fire up tourism into the country from August and predicted that the kingdom could see 6.7 million more visitors before the end of 2020.
If that figure could be achieved, it would be some sort of recovery as many financial analysts are predicting a wipe out this year of Thailand’s tourism industry with figures suggesting a loss in the order of 74%.
Thailand achieved a record 39,797,406 visitors for 2019.
The target of 6.7 to 7 million tourists entering the kingdom by the end of the year would bring the overall figure to 14 million approximately or 35% of last year’s level.
Recent predictions by Siam Commercial Bank are for an 81% wipeout with UN report more sanguine
A recent estimate by Siam Commercial Bank predicted only 7.56 million visitors this year with nearly 7 million having already arrived by the time the international flight ban was imposed on April 4th.
It predicted an 81% drop in traffic and a 74% drop in income or the equivalent of ฿2.2 trillion.
A UN study this week as more sanguine and came up with a loss of ฿1.46 trillion.
The dearth of foreign tourists has left many normally bustling and busy streets in Thailand’s capital deserted with unprecedented levels of unemployment in the kingdom especially in tourism hotspots such as Pattaya and Phuket.
Air travel ban rescinded on June 29th but replaced by other restrictions which saw normal commercial flights again cancelled throughout July
Thailand rescinded the air travel ban on June 29th but a supplementary order by the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand limited passengers on inbound aircraft to Thai nationals returning home and specific groups of foreigners including spouses of Thai nationals and work permit holders.
Foreign passengers for these flights, many who have been left stranded for months, require certificates of entry obtained through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
There are thousands currently working through consular channels worldwide to finalise applications to gain access to the kingdom.
Costly access for stranded foreigners
Once access is granted, which can take up to 8 weeks in some instances, the foreigners must wait to be approved on one-way repatriation flights where seats are often double or triple normal economy fares.
Thai nationals are given preference on such flights.
In addition, foreigners must provide medical certificates and test results as required as well as Covid 19 health insurance for the period of any visa.
Finally, foreigners must book and pay for an alternative quarantine scheme which has come down in price slightly but now costs anywhere from ฿37,000 to ฿120,000 for a two-week quarantine period.
One estimate, this week, put the average cost of a one-way return trip for those foreigners, now estimated to be in the tens of thousands, at between $4,200 and $5,000 (฿130,000 to ฿155,000) to enter the country to be reunited with families and in many instances, simply to go home.
Many scheduled commercial flights due to arrive in Bangkok in July have been cancelled.
New plan being worked on by two ministries in Bangkok to relaunch tourism quickly in August
On Thursday, the basis for Minister Phiphat’s comments was a new plan being developed by the Ministry of Tourism which is liaising with the Ministry of Public Health.
The plan envisages the commencement of the travel bubble concept ahead of schedule from August.
However, the nature of these tourism incursions will be a tightly controlled one. They will be limited to countries of origin that have a strong track record in dealing with Covid 19.
It is also reported that the first groups of tourists will be through bookings made by small agencies and limited to selected destinations within Thailand.
Pattaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai added to island destinations with more to come says minister
Minister Phiphat revealed that his ministry has now added Pattaya, Chiang Mai and Phuket to a list of islands including such destinations as Ko Samui, Ko Tao, Ko Phi Phi and Krabi.
The minister said that he also hoped to be able to include Hat Yai and Chiang Rai on this list.
Massage parlours reopened but go-go bars with masked dancers present a dystopian vision
It comes as Thailand’s famous massage parlours and go-go bars opened their doors throughout the country from Wednesday, July 1st, to a mixed response.
In Bangkok, the popular soapy massage parlour establishments on New Phetchaburi road which cater for more of a domestic market, appeared busy while Reuters carried a somewhat dystopian report featuring bikini-clad go-go dancers performing on stage with face masks.
Lack of enthusiasm in Pattaya and Phuket as many bars failed to open, they may not be back
It is being reported that on the first night, this week, in Pattaya and Phuket, many establishments failed to open while the atmosphere was sadly lacking as the normal clientele of foreigners and visitors were absent, for now, locked out of Thailand.
There are similar reports from Bangkok’s red light and nightlife areas notably Patpong.
Customers were scarce and the enthusiasm of the dancers was on the wane. One woman told a Reuters reporter that although she was glad to be back, she had lost all her savings.
‘I lost all my income,’ revealed 27-year-old Bee, a dancer at the XXX Lounge in the Patpong district. I’m glad that I can come back to work in a job that I’m good at. I’m OK with the mask because it’s one of the precautions.’
Poor opening night confirmed by Patong’s Mayor in Phuket and Bangkok venue manager
Christian Henrich is the manager of the XXX lounge in Bangkok’s Patpong. His outlook matched industry sources in Phuket and Pattaya.
‘There are bars all over Bangkok that have been open for 10 to 15 years and now they are closed and they are not coming back,’ he said.
In Phuket, Patong’s Mayor, Chalermlak Kebsap filed her report: ‘Not many operators have resumed their businesses on Soi Bang La because foreign tourists have not arrived yet. They were ordered to close due to Covid-19, and reopening will take time.’
Minster stressed that tourists in the first phase may not travel outside their chosen destination
Minister Phiphat, in the meantime, underlined that tourists in August will be limited in number and will be prohibited from touring outside their destination.
For instance, any traveller flying through Bangkok International Airport will not be allowed to enter Bangkok or its public areas.
The minister said that the second phase of this approach would see the destinations available to tourists widened as well as their ability to travel.
The third phase would see the country again open to tourists but restrictions would still apply on which countries can send visitors to Thailand.
Health remains the government’s top priority
The Minister explained that officials were considering the health implications of all decisions that were being made as a priority out of concern for the public.
Concern among the public has been reflected in a series of opinion polls on the matter.
‘Before opening each area for tourists, we have to ensure they have enough public health capacity to serve the foreign arrivals,’ the minister divulged. ‘If the tourism situation and virus containment goes smoothly, we expect to see around 6.7 million foreign visitors between August and December.’
Minister confident of public support in tourist areas as the industry is vital to the economy
The minister said that he was confident that the public in such places as Phuket, Pattaya and the popular tourist islands such as Ko Samui would support the government’s efforts to get tourism restarted as so many jobs were at stake within their localities.
He said that his ministry, after its discussions with officials at the Ministry of Public Health, will submit a final list of countries allowed to enter on the first phase of this scheme to the Covid 19 Administration Centre in 2 weeks time.
In past weeks, it has been suggested that Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand, as well as provinces or cities in China, may be on the list.
On Friday, the minister made it clear that specific provinces in China were now a key target for Thailand and he particularly suggested that tourists from these provinces would be directed to Phuket.
‘China is the first market with potential, because flying time to Thailand is less than six hours,’ he disclosed.
UPDATE on this story – everything thrown out: Plans to relaunch tourism from China thrown out as conflicting reports emerge of a new swine flu virus threat