It comes as the government attempts to streamline what has been a shambolic mismatch of regulations concerning various aspects and implementation of the Special Tourist Visa which increasingly looks like it is going to be the only game in town for inward foreign tourism to Thailand in the foreseeable future.
Thailand may introduce a scheme to grant permanent residency to any foreigner who buys a condo in Thailand debt-free and maintains without borrowing for over five years. It comes as the government begins to shift its focus to the economic emergency now facing the kingdom after measures to defend itself against the Covid-19 virus have left the Thai economy decimated and threaten a further deterioration going into 2021.
The government’s economic team is looking at a proposal to grant permanent residency to foreigners in Thailand who purchase a condominium unit in the kingdom without a mortgage and keep the property free of debt for over five years.
This is one of the proposals believed to be under consideration and due to be presented to the government’s Centre for Economic Situation Administration as officials now begin to prioritise economic recovery from the Covid-19 emergency.
It comes as the economic situation is tightening and with the latest plan to open up Thailand to mass tourism from China also hitting the rocks, for now, as Thailand’s communist neighbour to the north looks to extend its ban on mass outbound tourism or holiday tours.
฿1 trillion in unsold property in Bangkok right now as debt levels throughout the kingdom soar
Last week, a real estate analyst in Bangkok, Wichai Wirat, told the local popular Thai newspaper, the Daily News that there was upwards of ฿1 trillion of unsold or vacant property in Bangkok as the country’s household debt to GDP ratio is predicted to skyrocket to as high as 90% of GDP by the end of the year from a current projection of 84%.
Criticism from tourism industry leaders over confusion in the Special Tourism Visa scheme
Thailand’s government is also reported to be responding to stinging criticism from tourism industry leaders over the confusion that has been seen in recent weeks between various government ministries in the administration of the only tourist visa option currently available to tourists considering Thailand as a destination.
The 90 day Special Tourist Visa allows tourists to be granted a visa provided they satisfy a demanding list of criteria including insurance, medical tests and other requirements including booking and payment for 14 days in the government-run Alternative State Quarantine system.
The visa can be extended for up to 9 months by the holder and is aimed at long-stay tourists to Thailand.
Efforts are currently being made to extend the number of hotels participating in the alternative quarantine scheme through what is called the Alternative Local Quarantine Scheme which covers tourist hotspots outside Bangkok such as Pattaya and Phuket, areas hit hardest by the current dearth in foreign tourists.
Definition of safe countries from which tourists can apply for the scheme to be tied down
A key condition, inserted at the last moment, by the government when it approved the Special Tourist Visa was that only tourists from countries with low infection rates of Covid 19 could apply for the visa facility through Thai embassies and consulates worldwide despite the mandatory quarantine period on arrival.
Now, it is being reported that the various Thai ministries associated with the Special Tourist Visa are working together to clarify the entry criteria and make the process of obtaining visas easier. The plan is to encourage more visitors under the sole tourist scheme currently on offer.
The Ministry of Public Health has published a list of safe countries as of the 15th October and currently plans to update the list on the 15th and 30th of each month starting from the 30th October.
The safe countries on the list right now are:
- Hong Kong
- Ivory Coast
- New Zealand
- Republic of Korea (South Korea)
- Saudi Arabia
Simplification of the Special Tourism Visa scheme essential to its success and boosting visitors
On Monday, Danucha Pichayanan who is the Secretary-General of the National Economic and Social Development Council said that simplification of the process was essential to make the scheme a success.
To that end, the Ministry of Public Health, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Tourism and Sports Ministry and the Interior Ministry have begun to work together to coordinate the various regulations.
These, in turn, must get the green light and be approved by the all-powerful Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration chaired by the Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha which is the key arbiter on all government initiatives linked with this health emergency.
Covid-19 Situation Administration centre chaired by the PM currently to review a range of measures
The centre will currently be asked to decide upon plans being developed by government departments to shorten the length of quarantine for those entering the country with the Special Tourist Visa which would allow more tourists to enter the kingdom.
A revised quarantine period has been suggested of 10 days.
As well as clarifying the list of safe countries to be updated regularly for the purposes of the Special Tourist Visa, officials have turned their attention to approval of new hotels in the Alternative Local Quarantine Scheme in areas outside Bangkok, the latter having being held up until recently by the Covid 19 governing committee.
It should be noted that foreigners from western countries not on the safe list but with links with Thailand as visa holders or by marriage to a Thai spouse as well as work permit holders and a range of other categories, continue to enter Thailand on certificates of entry granted after a full review by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok through various embassies and consulates.
Goal is to get each tourist to spend ฿100,000 or more
On Monday, Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister with oversight of the economy said that streamlining and clarifying entry regulations for foreigners was now a critical objective of the government which must move smartly to regain some portion of the ฿3 trillion a year formerly generated by foreign tourism as the country faces into 2021 with the Covid-19 crisis looking like it may extend into the new year.
DPM Supattanapong Punmeechaow, who is also Thailand’s Energy Minister, said that a key goal would be to increase the average expenditure of each tourist entering under the Special Tourist Visa from under ฿50,000 seen in 2019, Thailand’s last year of normal foreign tourism, to ฿100,000 right now.
Economy without mass tourism is unsustainable
At the outset of the scheme, some months ago, Thai officials had suggested that each visitor would generate over ฿830,000, a figure widely dismissed as improbable. So it is clear, at least in respect of this, that Thai officials are beginning to appreciate the reality of the current economic situation.
The fact is that even if the government can attain its current target for the Special Tourist Visa scheme, it will still see the kingdom losing up to 99% of what the country used to earn from mass foreign tourism, a scenario that some top businesspeople in the kingdom have already warned is economically unsustainable.