Government sources estimate that up to 1,200 tourists per month will begin arriving in Thailand under the new long-stay visa from October. The visas will be limited to travellers from countries where Covid 19 is under control and processed by Thai embassies worldwide. Entrants will be subject to a range of strict and demanding requirements including health insurance, a Covid 19 test before flying, medical certification and 14 days in the Alternative State Quarantine system at the visitor’s expense.

The Thai government has agreed to a long-stay visa for tourists, valid for up to 9 months, which could see high spending tourists arriving in Thailand from October for holidays and in pursuit of medical care with a target of generating ฿1 billion a month for the economy. Although the regulations applying to the visa are still awaited from the Ministry of the Interior, it will be subject to 14 days state quarantine in a hotel and dependent on proof that the applicant can live in Thailand and fund their stay. 

Confirmation that the cabinet on Tuesday morning agreed to the new long-stay tourist visa came from Deputy Government spokesperson Traisuree Taisaranakul. She said that regulations will be drawn up by the Ministry of Interior and the first tourists using the new visa, which can be extended for up to 9 months, are expected in October.

The Thai cabinet, on Tuesday, took another official step in reopening the kingdom to tourism when ministers agreed on a new long-stay tourist visa which should see tourists arriving in the kingdom sometime in October.

The cabinet began its meeting at 9 am and did not finish until 1 pm with the visa proposal among many items on the agenda.

The new visa will be initially for 90 days but can be extended for a further 90 days twice at a cost each time of ฿2,000.

Entry to Thailand must be through the Alternative State Quarantine system which comes at a cost

Confirmation of the decision was given by Traisuree Taisaranakul, the deputy government spokesperson. Ms Traisuree highlighted, however, that the entry to Thailand with the visa was subject to a 14-day stay within the Alternative State Quarantine system. 

This involves availing of a two-week package from a range of hotels participating in the scheme, run in conjunction with the Thai Ministry of Public Health and which includes virus testing and strict quarantine backed up by security measures. 

The cost of the scheme varies from ฿32,000 to ฿150,000 per 14 day stay when first entering Thailand.

Regulations surrounding new visa to be issued by the Ministry of the Interior in due course

It is being reported that the detailed regulations surrounding the new visa will be issued by the Ministry of the Interior. This new visa is being offered to tourists until September 2021.

It is also understood that the availability of the visa will be limited to 1,200 tourists per month under the government’s current plans.

The visa will be limited to countries where the Covid 19 virus is under control.

A government source, earlier this week, said that entrants will include visitors from some parts of Europe, Taiwan and regions within China where the virus is thought to be under control.

Evidence of funds and place to stay

Although we will have to wait to see the final regulations surrounding the new visa issued by the Interior Ministry, it will include a requirement that those applying show where they intend to live in Thailand, a source of funds and agree to pay for Alternative State Quarantine for 14 days.

Evidence to show where the tourist will live may include a hotel reservation, a lease contract on a condominium unit or property as well as documentation to show that the tourist has a residence in Thailand already.

PM highlights medical tourism opportunity – Thai medical system one of the best in the world

The Thai Prime minister also confirmed the move and hailed it as an opportunity to encourage medical tourism.

However, a recent survey has shown that of the 12,000 foreigners who have arrived in Thailand since April with approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through Thai embassies worldwide, only 10% of the visits have been related to medical tourism. 

The vast majority are people with attachments to Thailand. This is also likely to be the case with many of the new long-stay tourists.

‘Visitors can arrive for tourism or health services, and they can stay at alternative state quarantine facilities, specific areas or at hospitals that function as quarantine facilities,’ said the Prime Minister on Tuesday. He pointed out that there will be further news and clarification later from the Centre for Covid 19 Situation Administration.

‘Our public health system is amongst the best in the world and people can have confidence in it,’ the PM concluded.

Hopes that the visa can generate ฿ 1 billion per month in badly needed foreign tourism revenue

Speaking with the media, the government spokesperson, Ms Traisuree, suggested that the move should see up to ฿1 billion per month generated in revenue for Thailand’s economy from those high spending tourists.

Last week, Krung Thai Bank estimated that the Thai economy is currently losing over ฿8 billion per day due to its closed borders to foreign tourists.

Ms Traisuree also made it clear that tourists applying for the visa will need to show that they can fund their extended stay in Thailand.

Over the weekend, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Finance also clarified the government’s objective with this initiative. 

Prasong Poontaneat said that Thailand needed foreign tourism revenue to support its economy. 

Same stringent requirements as foreigners who have entered Thailand since May under special approval

It is believed that the requirements for the visa will be quite similar to those already entering Thailand under special approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs including a Covid 19 test before the flight, medical certification and health insurance of up to $100,000 including cover against the virus.

This was emphasised also over the weekend by a leading industry figure, Suphan Mongkhonsuthee, of the Federation of Thai Industries who, while welcoming this move as an economic boost, underlined again the importance of ensuring that these visitors, demonstrably, have enough funds to live in Thailand and do not become a burden on the kingdom.

Limited but wider reopening of tourism

Thailand is still considering a wider reopening to tourism under the ‘Phuket Model’ with a key meeting anticipated between the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul, as well as officials with the Centre for Covid 19 Situation Administration.

This project, it should be noted, was approved in principle by the cabinet when it met last month in Rayong but, since then, efforts to implement it have stalled and been delayed with reports of political opposition.

Leading Thai doctors are still adamantly opposed to reopening the tourism industry with some even calling for a reversal of policy and the ongoing, limited influx to be halted on fears of another breakout.

2.5 million jobs on the line says tourism chief

This is despite a rise in the number of business closures which jumped by over 34% in figures just released for July and a warning from the boss of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Yuthasak Supasorn, that the loss of 2.5 million jobs in the industry is imminent.

He said this would happen if there is no hope of the once huge and strategically important economic engine of foreign tourism, reopening for the approaching high season.

The governor, Mr Yuthasak, has said that he believes that mass foreign tourism, as before, will not return to Thailand until at least the second quarter of 2021.

Even so, some economic analysts are already predicting that it is conceivable that the number of foreign tourists allowed to enter in 2021 may still, in fact, be lower than 2020 without the wide availability and introduction of a vaccine against the Covid 19 virus.

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Further reading:

Thais losing ฿8 billion a day in lost tourism with no guarantee of a return to past glory days of old at this point

Crunch time for 2.5 million jobs as government dithers on whether to reopen to foreign tourism this year

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Setback for Tourism Minister as Phuket model for foreign tourists put in doubt by an infected inmate

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