Hoteliers have generally given a warm welcome to the new urgency driving the November 1st reopening injected by Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha but are asking authorities to speed up the removal of the alcohol ban and the resumption of the country’s nightlife which are an integral part of the appeal of the kingdom to its core market as well as being a key revenue generator for the hospitality and entertainment sectors which employ millions.
As Thailand prepares for its November 1st reopening in the coming days, there are concerns about travellers planning to enter the kingdom in the opening weeks of the new entry regime with some potential holidaymakers already experiencing difficulty as the Certificate of Entry system begins to wind down while the Thailand Pass system will not be operational and able to accept applications until 9 am on November 1st next.
There are concerns among prospective travellers due to arrive in Thailand in the first weeks of November about the current processing system for entry into the kingdom and the overlap period.
Government officials have confirmed that the Certificate of Entry scheme will close on November 1st.
Currently, people applying to enter Thailand just after November 1st are being told, in some instances, that they cannot process a Certificate of Entry under the old system while the new Thailand Pass system will not be opened for business until 9 am to November 1st next with an estimated time span of three to five days for processing applications.
Certificates of Entry granted for dates after November remain valid and can be converted says the ministry
There have already been assurances from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that existing Certificates of Entry to access Thailand after November 1st are valid and will be able to be converted to the new entry regime but travellers are effectively being told to wait and not organise trips until after the 7th November.
The situation is prompting concerns of another emergency or debacle similar to that which occurred on July 1st this year with the launch of the Phuket Sandbox when there were delays in processing appropriate entry documents for arrivals in the opening 72 hours of that scheme.
Top tourists soured by red tape, hyper-regulation is killing off enthusiasm for the Phuket sandbox among fans
Caught up in confusion over Certificate of Entry at the launch of the scheme from the 29th June to July 1st
The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already confirmed that the Certificate of Entry process will be phased out entirely after November 1st and replaced with the new Thailand Pass system.
Thailand Pass system will be used from November 1st by all passengers entering Thailand from abroad
On Sunday, 24th October, Mr Tanee Sangrat who is now the Director-general of the Department of Information at the ministry, confirmed that staff at embassies and consulates all over the world were testing the Thailand Pass application which has been developed by the Digital Government Development Agency (DGA).
He explained that the new system will accept uploaded documents from travellers concerning their vaccine status and other requirements. The processing of each application to enter Thailand should be complete within a three to five-day time frame.
Since the closure of Thailand in April 2020 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through Royal Thai embassies and consulates have processed 400,000 applications to enter Thailand for both tourists, foreign residents in the kingdom and incoming tourists, he disclosed.
Web-based application opens on November 1st
Thailand Pass will be a web-based application that will be available to all travellers.
The senior government official said that staff at Royal Thai embassies and consulates will still operate as a support service for applicants from foreign countries seeking to gain entry into Thailand as they upload documents including a TM 8 health declaration and a T6 arrival form online.
‘Thai embassies and consulates will change their original role of issuing the COEs to publicising and giving advice on the registration of the Thailand Pass system. This means there will be no more process of seeking their approval,’ said Mr Tanee.
Royal Thai embassies and consulate staff will still offer support and guidance to all those visiting
He said the embassy network was busy promoting the reopening of the country on simpler terms to the 46 listed countries and territories as well as potential Thai travellers who will also be using the new Thailand Pass service.
He clarified that this process will also be used by all travellers from other countries entering under the different sandbox programmes and those who are unvaccinated and therefore required to stay 10 days at alternative quarantine hotels.
Officials are currently estimating a three to five day processing period for applicants although Mr Tanee over the weekend suggested that all potential travellers register with the Thailand Pass system at least seven days before departure for Thailand.
Hoteliers and foreign tourism business owners step up calls to have alcohol and nightlife ban lifted
Concern about the successful integration of the Thailand Pass system on November 1st comes as there is also mounting anxiety about the continued ban on alcohol.
Tourism industry leaders have generally welcomed the decisive approach of Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha since he intervened on October 11th to order a broader and simpler entry process, raising expectations and causing more hotels to reopen.
Now senior industry executives fear that the experience of initial travellers in the opening weeks of larger numbers of arrivals may create a negative reaction that could derail or impede further bookings.
Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi is the President of the Thai Hotels Association.
She believes the November 1st reopening will be successful but that it will take some weeks to settle in.
Many potential holidaymakers or travellers to Thailand adopt a wait and see approach but the sentiment is generally positive to this plan
In the beginning, she predicts some foreign tourists will test the waters while others will wait to see how it works before taking the plunge.
Already, indications are that many regular visitors to Thailand from western countries are waiting until December after the prime minister suggested in mid-October that by December 1st, the entertainment and nightlife industry may be reopened in the country.
Top hoteliers and industry leaders are now openly admitting the critical importance of this industry to the overall foreign tourism sector in the kingdom which is worth ฿2 trillion a year to the Thai economy and which has seen a 99.4% wipeout from April 2020 to September 2021.
It is a vital component of a successful formula that had made Thailand’s foreign tourism economy the second largest in the world, after Spain, before the pandemic.
Minor Group boss calls for booze ban to be lifted
On October 25th, the Chairman of Minor International, one of Thailand’s most successful firms, quoted on the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) and which operates a chain of hotels in Bangkok and other parts of the country, Mr Willam Heinecke, wrote to the Governor of Bangkok, Aswin Kwanmuang.
He underlined the need for a lifting of the ban on alcohol.
‘For both business and leisure travellers, alcohol plays a central role in the enjoyment of their visits. It also makes a significant contribution in sales to restaurants and hotels, thus boosting the earnings of Thai businesses and the millions of staff that they employ,’ he said. ‘As one of Thailand’s largest providers of hospitality to foreign visitors, we are keenly familiar with the expectations and needs of travellers to Thailand.’
Hotel industry leader calls for a wider reopening of pubs and nightlife to make the reopening a success
Similarly, Ms Marisa has emphasised the need for removal of the alcohol ban and the start of the nightlife industry as soon as possible to boost sentiment towards Thailand and the holiday experience of visitors arriving in the coming weeks.
The hotel boss, like Mr Heinecke, also points out that alcohol is essential to the overall ability of hotels to earn income.
She has also admitted that Thailand is known worldwide for its nightlife industry and hospitality which includes an eclectic mix of pubs and entertainment venues.
‘It was not only restaurants in hotels that were severely affected by alcohol and nightlife bans, entertainment venues and those occupations involved in this business, such as musicians, are the most impacted industry,’ she said. ‘Employees in nightlife businesses face a more critical situation than those working for hotels. Hotel staff can shift to other posts in hotels or take leave without pay temporarily, but nightlife people have been completely jobless in the past four months.’
Ms Marisa suggested that limited social distancing rules and vaccine screenings could be part of the mix to protect public health.
‘Limiting the number of guests and requiring them to show a vaccine certificate should help basic screening and balance healthcare measures with the economy’ she declared.
Hotels in Phuket are reopening with only 30% now closed as bookings are reportedly picking up
Last weekend’s announcement clarified one key question regarding the reopening by confirming that after November 1st, the Certificate of Entry will be a thing of the past.
Hoteliers in Thailand are already reporting a significant pickup in bookings with reports that now only 30% of the hotels in Phuket remain closed as smaller and medium-sized concerns prepare to reopen across the kingdom.
In Phang-nga province, Mr Atanop Phankamnerd, who is the CEO of the property development firm which owns the popular Natai Medical Center and Resort in the province, said in recent days that his firm has been pleasantly surprised at the more open nature of the government’s new policy and in particular, the extended list of 46 countries that can enjoy quarantine free admission for vaccinated visitors together with the more streamlined Thailand Pass entry procedure.
Mr Atanop said he was aware of a significant pickup in bookings in Phuket while his firm would now commence its marketing to again attract foreign tourists to come and stay as guests.
Hotel and resort owner agrees with the government’s new living with Covid approach to the economy
He agreed with the government’s policy of now living with the COVID-19 disease and allowing businesses and workers to get back to earning a living.
‘It seems that the government is on the right track compared to last year. The Covid-19 infection rate of Thailand was to the fore as we shut down the country. But this year, the infection rate is still at the level of ten thousand people per day and we open the country. It shows that we accept that we have to live with Covid,’ disclosed Mr Atanop.
While his observation is pertinent, opinion polls in the last two weeks have consistently shown a majority of the Thai public remains both cautious and negative towards this bold and brave initiative being driven by the Thai prime minister.
Foreign tourism works better than exports
The hotel and property boss said it will take some time for businesses to recover from the prolonged shutdown and to develop some cash reserves but at least now that process could start.
He also explained how foreign tourism generates cash more quickly and distributes it more effectively than the other pillar of Thailand’s economy which is exports.
‘The government has accelerated the expansion of vaccination to cover group immunity. The sooner you open and expand the country, the better, because opening the country to tourists will help turn the country’s economy back quickly. Because it can receive cash and if there is a lot of money, it will help GDP growth faster than the export sector. It takes time to purchase raw materials, it takes time to produce and deliver products, and it takes a long time to get money,’ he concluded.