Thailand’s foreign tourism big bang: 46 countries listed below from November 1st with nightlife to reopen on December 1st next. The Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul, has meanwhile welcomed the early attainment of the 70% vaccination rate in Bangkok on the 19th of October last and has said that the new target is 80% with a programme of third booster shots also ongoing. The Deputy Prime Minister expressed some concern about the reopening of the nightlife and entertainment industry the following month. He said Thailand will be bringing its own home developed vaccines into play in 2022 in what he foresees as a sustained struggle against the virus to create immunity for the population and to live with it as an endemic disease.
46 countries will be allowed access to Thailand without quarantine and using the faster Thailand Pass system as opposed to the Certificate of Entry system from November 1st, the prime minister announced on Thursday evening. It comes as more hotels have opened in Bangkok and the occupancy rate for November has already risen to 30% with officials at Suvarnabhumi Airport preparing to process 60,000 passengers a day.
Thailand’s Prime Minister has added a new impetus to the ongoing effort to reopen the country when he announced, on Thursday evening, that nationals from 46 countries in all will be able to travel into Thailand without applying for a Certificate of Entry and without the 7-day quarantine period immediately after November 1st.
It comes after the Department of Disease Control at the Ministry of Public Health was reportedly handed public key (PKI) infrastructure giving it access to the vaccine status of nationals from at least 30 countries this week.
The Prime Minister, in his statement, acknowledged that the reopening of Thailand brings with it a high level of risk.
Most of the Thai public oppose the bolder moves by the PM according to a Suan Dusit poll last Sunday
It follows an opinion poll conducted by Suan Dusit Rajabhat University on Sunday across over 1,329 respondents which showed a strong 60.1% opposed to the move at this time.
The Suan Dusit Poll showed that 59.86% disagreed with the November 1st reopening date while 77.29 % noted the economic need for the move against 83.43% who feared increasing cases of COVID-19 reemerging despite the fully vaccinated status of the new arrivals and two COVID-19 tests including one before departure and on arrival.
The Phuket Sandbox has also shown that only 0.3% of nearly 40,000 arrivals tested positive after landing in Thailand.
Prayut is focused on the economy as he makes this decisive move forward – ‘ a risk we must take’
‘If we wait until everything is fully ready, we’ll be too late. Besides, tourists may choose to go elsewhere,’ said General Prayut as the kingdom’s economy faces a moment of reckoning in this last quarter of the year. ‘But this is a risk we must take. I think, like other countries, Thailand is now better equipped to deal with the risk. And we need to learn to live with it.’
It comes with increasing reports of a reawakening of the foreign tourism sector in Bangkok, which was dormant just weeks ago.
There are increasingly positive indicators from the market to the decisive intervention of the prime minister, earlier this month, on national TV, when he announced the abolition of the quarantine period followed by the removal of the Certificate of Entry requirements.
46 countries listed for November 1st reopening
These two moves appear to have been the key that was needed to unlock foreign tourism again.
The PM seemed to be in tune with this sentiment when he closed out his statement on Thursday with an optimistic note: ‘I hope we can hear some good news from the upcoming long holidays.’
The countries on the list are:
6. Brunei Darussalam
13. Czech Republic
31. New Zealand
36. Saudi Arabia
39. Republic of Korea
43. United Arab Emirates
44. United Kingdom
45. United States
46. Hong Kong
Momentum has been boosted since the breakthrough announcement 10 days ago by the PM on TV
Momentum is already building ahead of the November 1st reopening date for Thailand’s foreign tourism industry with strong indications that authorities may be in for an unexpected boost in the number of visitors returning to Thailand in the last two months of the year.
The two concessions to foreign travellers, including a reduction in the effective quarantine period from seven days to just one night and most significantly, the proposed elimination of the hated Certificate of Entry system in respect of an initial proposed list of 10 countries which has now been increased to 46, has prompted a surge in internet traffic to booking sites and on Google searches relating to Thailand among potential foreign holidaymakers.
Hotel occupancy rates in Bangkok are already set to rise to 30% next month as more hotels open
This has also seen hotels in Bangkok experience a pick up in bookings with a current 20% occupancy rate in October expected to rise to 30% in November according to Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, the President of the Thai Hotels Association, this week.
She also revealed that between 60 and 70% of licenced hotels in Bangkok had now reopened, a large rise from 50% at the peak of the virus outbreak, just months ago.
Last week, Kasikorn Research Centre, the research arm of Thailand’s Kasikorn Bank reported that Thailand will now see 180,000 foreign tourist arrivals this year, up from the 100,000 that the normally bullish Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Yuthasak Supasorn predicted only two weeks ago at a high profile business seminar in Bangkok prior to Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha’s 11th October announcement that Thailand would be reopening more rapidly.
Tourism Authority of Thailand boss surprised by the move as the government seeks to save the economy
The news took the TAT boss, Mr Yuthasak, by surprise, he admitted himself last week.
TAT boss: quarantine remains for 1 day to test all visitors, no going back to old tourism pub scenes
It is not clear what the reason for the dramatic turnaround announced by the Prime Minister was, but taken at face value, it was simply the economic imperative referred to openly by the government leader in his TV address earlier in the month when he explained that he had to act to preserve livelihoods.
It has emerged over the past month that the Thai baht has become the subject of speculation because of both a rising government deficit and more significantly, a current account deficit which has seen the baht fall to ฿34 to the dollar or nearly a 14% depreciation since the last day of 2020.
Kasikorn Research Centre now expects the Thai currency to rally towards the end of the year and trade at ฿32.50 to the dollar.
Bangkok’s two main airports preparing to handle up to 70,000 passengers a day with new loan funding
The situation is expected to turn around as Bangkok’s two main airports, Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Mueang, prepare to welcome tens of thousands of travellers at a level not seen since Thailand closed its doors to air passengers in April 2020.
On Tuesday, the Airports of Thailand (AOT) suggested that it was preparing to welcome no less than 60,000 passengers a day through Suvarnabhumi Airport while 10,000 per day are expected to use Don Mueang which in recent years, has been used more for regional flights within Thailand and Southeast Asia.
The board of directors of Airports of Thailand (AOT), meeting this week, announced its approval for the borrowing of ฿25 billion over the next two years from the Government Savings Bank and Krungthai Bank to help finance improvements in its service as it ramps back up its operations after the hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and consequent significant loss of income.
70% vaccination target achieved by October 19th as officials monitor city business venues used by tourists
On October 19th, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration revealed that 70.63% or 5.43 million people, had already been fully vaccinated, exceeding the target rate set for reopening, at 70%.
A briefing was given by Police Lieutenant General Sophon Phisutthiwong, a deputy governor of Bangkok who also explained that the inspection, certification and monitoring of thousands of business venues in the city were ongoing ahead of the reopening.
Before the pandemic in 2019, Bangkok was one of the world’s most visited cities, indeed in some years, the most visited destination on the planet, receiving just shy of 25 million visitors per annum and generating, in its own right, ฿1 trillion a year in income or just short of half the country’s massive stream of revenue from foreign tourism income which previously helped power 20% of Thailand’s economy and has been sorely missed.
Anutin: now 80% is the target rate with booster shots after lessons well learned from the Phuket Sandbox
Speaking this week, the Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul welcomed the news that the city’s vaccination rate target had been reached ahead of schedule.
He indicated a new target of 80% was now being set and that authorities would be pushing forward with third booster shots for members of the population given what was learned from the Phuket Sandbox experience.
Many of those who have been vaccinated in Bangkok would have received at least one dose of the Sinovac vaccine which will be phased out by the end of October and is considered less effective against the now dominant Delta strain of the virus.
Fears expressed about the planned reopening of pubs and nightlife venues by December 1st in Bangkok
Mr Anutin still expressed his fears about the proposed reopening of pubs and the entertainment industry in the city by December 1st but, at this point at least, seemed to accept that it would go ahead and called for public co-operation.
Bangkok’s nightlife is a key component of its appeal but it has also been proven as a key factor in driving previous outbreaks.
Authorities in Thailand are keeping a close eye on the situation in the United Kingdom where infection rates are spiralling right now despite that country’s impressive vaccination campaign but coming months after the country relaxed restrictions including fully reopening its nightlife.
Meanwhile, the Tourism Authority of Thailand has been giving details of preparations for the reopening including a trial run at Suvarnabhumi Airport scheduled for Monday, October 25th.
The authority has seen more hotels and locations frequented by foreign tourists seeking Safety and Health Administration (SHA) Plus approval ahead of the reopening.
‘Swab hubs’ as more hotels in Bangkok seek Safety and Health Administration (SHA) Plus status ahead of the reopening and to avoid congestion
On Tuesday, Deputy Governor Thapanee Kiatphaibool, revealed that approval for 330 hotels to join the scheme is pending while there are plans to create what have been termed ‘swab hubs’ to avoid confusion and a build-up of queues at Bangkok’s airports.
This will mean that arriving foreign tourists will be driven by limousine to testing centres on arrival or swab hubs and then to their hotel where they will be expected to stay for one night before being given the all-clear.
The hubs will be located at medical facilities or some alternative quarantine hotel facilities.
Ongoing discussion and preparations towards the launch of the Thailand Pass system from November
In the meantime, discussions are reported to be ongoing between the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Tourism Authority of Thailand about the replacement of the Certificate of Entry process for exempted countries from November 1st.
In London, it is reported that UK nationals who wish to travel to Thailand after November 1st are still being told by officials at the Royal Thai Embassy that they should proceed to apply for a Certificate of Entry and book Alternative Quarantine accommodation under the existing rules for entry to Thailand.
T8 medical declaration and normal T6 entry form online together with passport details uploaded
Passengers will be required to submit a T8 medical declaration form together with their passport document and ID as well as the well-known T6 entry form in an online format.
This week, it was reported that the Department of Disease Control, which will be operating this approval process through a back-office system linked with Immigration Control has received public key (PKI) infrastructure giving it access to screening data on vaccination statuses relating to arriving passengers from at least 30 different participating countries.
Embassies telling some travellers either to wait or book under the old quarantine regime for now
‘We have not been officially advised regarding November yet. If you are planning to travel to Thailand soon, you may prepare as if you are going into a quarantine hotel,’ said one email from the embassy to a traveller planning to visit.
‘The embassy told us we will still need a certificate of entry and still need to book quarantine accommodation,’ said another.
However, on Tuesday, Ms Thapanee of TAT was clear that the reopening is going ahead as planned, explaining that it takes time to knit the final details together.
‘Bangkok’s reopening will proceed as scheduled on November 1st, so all related parties have to tie up any loose ends before the reopening,’ she explained.
Other reports from potential travellers have suggested that some Royal Thai Embassies have extended the period for applying for a Certificate of Entry in anticipation of a change or switch to the Thailand Pass system for the countries concerned who have been placed on the exception list.
Thailand to launch and use its own home developed vaccines in 2022 to keep the virus under control
Speaking on Monday, with an eye on developments going forward, the Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul revealed that Thailand would, in 2022, be unveiling its own home developed vaccines as part of what he foresaw as an ongoing programme of vaccination and booster shots against this virus.
The minister also confirmed that Thailand had ordered and would be testing new treatments such as Molnupiravir from Merck as part of its strategy of living with the COVID-19 virus while also driving up the levels of vaccination.
‘I reiterate that Thailand already has a vaccine and will have a variety of technologies next year. Thai vaccines are expected to enter the service system as well. Because many production teams have made great progress, such as the GPO (Government Pharmaceutical Organisation) team and the team of Chulalongkorn University. We do not plan to inject only two injections, but we have already looked at the booster needle. Experience has made us more knowledgeable about vaccines and procurement. And I would like to confirm that Thailand will provide a vaccine that is good and consistent with the situation,’ said the minister.