Tourism authority is predicting that this year’s foreign tourist arrivals will spend ฿80,000 to ฿100,000 per head during their stay in Thailand leaving the kingdom with 15% of what was achieved in 2019 in terms of revenue. Key tourism officials and business leaders are emphasising that the key to success, right now, is the country’s vaccination campaign.
The reopening of Phuket is going ahead despite the referral of the final decision on the matter by the cabinet on Tuesday to the Centre for Economic Situation Administration (CESA) with some suggestions to examine before the government finally signs off on the measure. The Prime Minister, on Tuesday, briefed reporters on the plan which business leaders are hoping will help galvanise an already dormant and severely damaged foreign tourism sector. On Wednesday, top Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) executive Siripakorn Cheawsamoot confirmed that in the first four months of 2021 only 28,701 foreign tourists visited Thailand but insisted the tourism marketing agency was targeting 3 million visitors by the end of the year.
On Wednesday, the reopening of the resort island was confirmed by Tourism Authority of Thailand executive and Deputy Governor Siripakorn Cheawsamoot who set out a new goal of 3 million visitors for this year, most of whom will enter the kingdom in the last quarter.
The foreign tourism executive revealed that from January to April inclusive, Thailand had only seen 28,701 arrivals in total or an average of 21,526 per quarter or 7,175 per month.
Other launches including Ko Samui and Chiang Mai before October 1st being examined next
He predicted that with Phuket reopening and other planned launches possibly in Chiang Mai and Ko Samui ahead of an October 1st reopening of all key tourist provinces accounting for 75% of activity seen in 2019, the number of foreign tourists will rise to 129,000 visitors for the third quarter of 2021 or a 600% increase from where it is now.
The figure now being targeted by the tourism authority is 3 million visitors in total for the year.
Mr Siripakorn suggests that these will spend between ฿240 to ฿300 billion in the country or between ฿80,000 to ฿100,000 per head.
This level of income would be 15% of what was seen in 2019 when foreign tourists spent over ฿2 trillion in Thailand. The agency predicts 20 million visitors in 2022 generating an income of ฿1.3 trillion.
Cabinet approved the Phuket plan but sent it back to the Centre for Economic Situation Administration (CESA) for some tweaks to be considered
The Thai cabinet, on Tuesday, approved the Phuket reopening initiative or ‘Phuket Sandbox’ to go ahead on July 1st next.
However, the cabinet sent the proposal back to the Centre for Economic Situation Administration (CESA) which approved it last Friday asking officials to examine several tweaks or suggestions to make the proposal more effective.
This was revealed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha after the meeting when he stressed that those arriving in Phuket to stay without quarantine will have to be fully vaccinated at least 14 days before their arrival and that the point of origin of all passengers had to be from medium to low-risk countries.
PM highlights the need to balance health risks with the need to revive the damaged economy
The government leader highlighted the need to balance the risk between protecting the local population and kick-starting the country’s severely damaged foreign tourism industry at this time.
The province has already vaccinated 60% of its population and officials are confident that the 70% herd immunity target will now be reached in time.
Surat Thani Governor backs plan to reopen Ko Samui to foreign tourists saying the pandemic is contained
In Surat Thani, Governor Wichwut Jinto has endorsed the push to reopen Ko Samui coming from the Tourism Promotion Association and its Chairman Ratchaporn Poonsawat.
It came as business and tourism leaders on the island were scheduled to meet the Minister of Tourism and Sports Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn and Tourism Authority of Thailand Chief Yuthasak Supasorn.
Indeed, Governor Wichwut told reporters that there was enough evidence to suggest that the pandemic in his area had been contained while leaders on Ko Samui are emphasising that the small population of the island, at less than seventy thousand people, makes the challenge of creating herd immunity there quite easy.
No time to lose says tourist organisation chief in boosting the vaccination drive on Ko Samui
However, Mr Ratchaporn says that there is no time to lose as the island is seeking to reopen as soon as possible ahead of the October 1st date.
He is asking for priority to be given to vaccinating the population of the idyllic tourist island.
‘We are appealing to the government and the CCSA for help. There isn’t much time left to vaccinate more people,’ said Mr Ratchaporn.
He is calling on the government to not only give the green light to a reopening of the island but to assist in bringing back airline connectivity including more flights from Bangkok, other locations in Thailand and direct flights from overseas.
Ko Samui plan approved in principle in March
The leadership on the island wants the government to swiftly approve their proposal.
The plan has already been presented to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) and highlights restrictions which would involve controlling access areas for tourists, proposals for testing and tracking.
It was approved in principle by the government body, overseeing the administration of the kingdom during the virus emergency, in March.
However, at the time, the reopening plans for the country lacked clarity and the third virus wave overtook events in April.
Momentum generated by Phuket plan has seen airlines and the travel industry get on board
The momentum that has been generated by the Phuket initiative has seen a rush of airlines to create travel links and the prospect of the popular destination, which ranked 14th in the world before the pandemic, has brought it to the attention of world travel markets where many holidaymakers are contemplating their first vacation in two years.
This has prompted both Chiang Mai and Ko Samui to follow suit with business leaders and officials in these tourist areas now putting pressure on the government to allow them a similar dispensation.
Chiang Mai scheduled for August 1st reopening with 4 key districts aiming for herd immunity
Chiang Mai is scheduled for an August 1st relaunch to the international tourism market although the details have yet to be presented to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to get the green light.
Business leaders in the northern province and city have highlighted four key districts for inoculation and within which they aim to create herd immunity.
These are Doi Tao, Mae Rim, Mae Taeng and the Muang district.
60% of foreign tourism business concerns in Chiang Mai already closed and only 3% of hotel rooms open
Deputy Chairman of the economic committee of the Thai Chamber of Commerce in the North, Narong Tananuwat, has warned that, currently, in Chiang Mai, the virus crisis has also closed over 60% of tourist related business concerns and he estimated that only 2,400 rooms out of 80,000 in the province are currently available to visitors.
The province is now working with the Tourism Authority of Thailand to save the industry and is going to have its version of the Phuket sandbox arrangement approved next by the government body allowing a relaunch of foreign tourism in northern Thailand from August 1st.
The population of the 4 key districts is approximately 426,000 or 24% of the province’s overall population of 1.79 million.
This week, officials in Chiang Mai indicated that 5.3% of the population have received a first dose already
The initiative in Chiang Mai will attract tourists visiting the inner city and key districts restricted to ‘sealed routes’ and will involve testing and tracking with an app.
Earlier this week, officials in Chiang Mai confirmed that 5.3% of the population across the province have received a vaccine dose while 1.64% have received two doses.
Business leaders are urging the government to prioritise the vaccines for the targeted areas for reopening and, as with Ko Samui, approve the reopening plan to go ahead on August 1st including efforts to extend and improve flight connectivity.
The northern city is targeting 600,000 foreign tourists by the end of 2021.
Chiang Mai Airport aiming to get back quickly to over 32% of capacity after August from 5% now
In the short term, it is hoped to increase passenger arrivals into Chiang Mai Airport to 10,000 passengers from only 1,500 at present or 5% of normal with both foreign and domestic arrivals.
That is still a far cry from the average of up to 30,858 visitors a day in 2019 when the airport recorded 11.3 million passengers. Last year it had 6.2 million travellers passing through its gates.
The key to the plan is vaccinations
They are also looking at a wider reopening of the province and the country from October 15th next and hope to see 600,000 foreign tourists visiting the northern province in the last three months of the year.
The key to all this, of course, according to Mr Narong, is the vaccination process.
‘If it is, the plan should proceed without a hitch,’ he said. ‘Covid-19 will be with us for at least a decade. We need to create a safe environment for making a living and for that to happen, we need to build herd immunity.’