On Wednesday, the Director-General of the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand also told the media the ban on incoming flights and access to Thailand was now ‘indefinite’ and that the focus for authorities was on upscaling its alternative quarantine scheme supported by government organised repatriation flights where it is reported that the daily processing ability between the state quarantine and commercial operations is limited to only 500 incoming passengers per day.
A key official with Thailand’s Tourism Authority has told his international peers that the kingdom may not open its borders to international tourism until at least after February or even March 2021. This comes as the government has confirmed it is to launch a Covid 19 related economic recovery centre to balance the health protection unit but also chaired by the Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha. On Thursday, the PM identified the loss of export earnings and tourism revenue as the two biggest concerns.
Thailand is moving forward with its hard and tough stance in countering the Covid 19 virus but is now to balance this with efforts to offset its massive impact on the economy.
There are reports that the government has now ruled out any return of foreign tourists towards the end of the year and the high season in the normal sense. Except 2020 is anything but normal.
It comes with reports of plans being discussed to extend the alternative quarantine scheme and controlled entry for foreigners who may be interested in staying in the country for an extended stay or longer periods.
Maximum number of incoming passengers that can enter Thailand even with strict screening and quarantine is 500 people per day
The relative success of Thailand’s controlled entry efforts has seen more hotels seeking to join the alternative quarantine scheme around the country. However, it is understood that the maximum number of people that can be processed, at present, including Thai returnees is only 500 people per day.
This is lower than the target set at the end of June when the goal was to double that number from 300 per day to 600.
All such incoming passengers are arriving in Thailand on special repatriation flights organised through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and cleared to enter the kingdom.
‘No discussion’ on reopening Thailand to tourism
Participating in an online seminar recently, Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, the Executive Director for Advertising and Public Relations of Thailand’s Tourism Authority, said that there has been ‘no discussion’ about opening up Thailand’s tourism sector to foreign tourists, at all, this year. Mr Chattan is also a Deputy Governor of the authority.
He said that recent scares in countries like Vietnam and the Philippines, as well as the rising trends in Europe and the United States, has increased the government’s resolve on the matter.
‘I see no signal from the government that Thailand will reopen this year,’ the tourism executive said last week to his international audience.
Christmas and High Season being written off
He also indicated that it may be well into 2021 before the government revisits its current position.
‘The Christmas period, usually a high-season, is now in jeopardy, and I’m even looking all the way to Chinese New Year in February, which is an iffy proposition at best now,’ he said.
Mr Chattan indicated that the Thai government was very much in tune with the mind and temper of the public on the issue.
Consistent surveys, in recent times, have shown Thai people to be wary of prematurely opening up the kingdom’s borders.
‘There’s still a lot of nervousness. We’re taking a very, very cautious approach,’ Mr Chattan observed. He indicated that the situation was far from ideal for those involved in promoting international tourism.
International survey contradicts local polls – says 82% of Thai people confident about opening borders
However, a survey published on Thursday by Blackbox International had a more optimistic message. It revealed that 82% of Thai people were confident that the kingdom can open back up to tourism.
This research was conducted from outside Thailand among the Thai population and other Asian countries with a statistically reliable sample. It contrasts sharply to local opinion polls published recently in the kingdom.
Mr Chattan of the Tourism Authority described the government’s policy right now as a ‘wait and see’ one.
Economic recovery is however back on the agenda
The Prime Minister on Thursday announced a new Covid 19 related centre with up to 22 committees reporting to it to coordinate the kingdom’s economic recovery.
Thailand’s new ministers began their work on Thursday.
This included the new Minister of Finance, Predee Daochai, who was scheduled to meet officials to review the government’s economic stimulus measures including measures targeting small business operators. This also includes operators in the hard-hit tourism industry.
The government is targeting schemes designed to boost domestic tourism and subsidies to small business concerns in former tourist hotspots such as Pattaya and Phuket, now devastated by the closure of the kingdom’s borders.
Not all reports from tourist hotspots are so bleak as Pattaya and Phuket, good news from Hua Hin
However, it is not all bad news.
Reports in July from some hotels in Hua Hin suggest that booking from local tourists and occupancy rates were surprisingly high.
‘We expected to be busy when we reopened but the demand was beyond our initial forecast and it truly was incredible,’ said Graham Ure who is General Manager of the Anantara hotel on Hua Hin’s seashore. He was speaking to international TV network CNN last month.
Economy is picking up from rock bottom in April
Ahead of the new finance minister’s meeting, Mr Lawon Saengsanit of the Fiscal Policy Office with the ministry confirmed that since the reopening of the economy, VAT receipts have started to pick up although key sectors such as exports and tourism are still very much damaged by the pandemic.
Civil Aviation boss says commercial flights still banned ‘indefinitely’ while consulting with CCSA
The current position was also confirmed on Wednesday when the Civil Aviation Authority and its Director-General, Chula Sukmanop, described the current ban on commercial flights into Thailand as ‘indefinite’ while adding that it was subject to ongoing discussions with the Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).
The official said that he thought this would remain the case while the pandemic is still spreading internationally, posing a threat to Thailand.
Ongoing expansion of the alternative quarantine scheme as the numbers applying zoom up
He did indicate that officials were working on expanding the alternative quarantine scheme as the number of foreigners seeking to enter Thailand and availing of the facilities, even based on limited eligibility, has been very high.
Mr Chula underlined that such visitors are paying for their own quarantine and medical supervision on a commercial basis.
He also pointed out that there was no agreement on proposed travel bubble arrangements or other initiatives mooted by the Ministry of Tourism in recent months.