Despite this, there is a continued surge in interest as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director-general of Information confirmed that the system had received and processed tens of thousands of applications since last Monday with over 89% of arrivals being vaccinated tourists entering without quarantine while only a handful of visitors, six out of 4,500 in the first few days, tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. These were all among unvaccinated arrivals.
Thai officials are working to fix and improve the Thailand Pass entry system for incoming passengers by air following a growing number of complaints during the week as users encountered bugs and difficulties in using the system and getting the appropriate approval in time to meet flights and bookings. The problems were particularly acute for applicants who had earlier submitted Certificate of Entry applications before that system shut down in advance of the new site opening for business last Monday 1st November. Speaking to the press mid-week, the top spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs cited ‘external interferences’ but assured potential visitors that the system was successful in processing large volumes of entrants while at the same time being constantly improved and perfected.
There are reports of many thousands of prospective foreign tourists experiencing a range of problems with the operation of the government’s Thailand Pass entry system which was hailed this week by the Director-general of Information for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tanee Sangrat, when he revealed, on Thursday, that 65,333 applications had been received and that 12,607 had already been processed in the first few days since the online application opened for business on Monday, November 1st at 9 am.
The numbers highlight the growing surge in interest among foreign tourists in visiting Thailand after the country opened its borders last Monday, November 1st.
Fully vaccinated passengers from 63 countries are now only being required to spend one night at a Safety and Health Administration (SHA) Plus hotel with a COVID-19 PCR test once they arrive in the kingdom and thereafter must update the MorChanna app.
Foreigners seeing enjoying the Bangkok atmosphere at busy city centre bars this week will be a spur for a bigger influx which is expected in December
The reopening has seen busy bars in Bangkok over the last few days packed with foreign holidaymakers although most analysts believe the reopening of the nightlife industry and broader relief on the prohibition of alcohol will be required if the kingdom wants to drive a more significant influx later in the year.
Pattaya has been noticeably quiet as the seaside resort gears up for what is expected to be a return to some sort of normality in December.
Only 11% of visitors going into quarantine
Fully vaccinated passengers from other countries can enter on similar terms but are limited to travelling within 17 blue zones and other conditions under various sandbox schemes.
On Wednesday, Dr Sumanee Wacharasint told the press at a Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) briefing on the reopening that only 11% of incoming travellers, in the initial days, were entering through the alternative quarantine scheme.
Reports of visitors caught in the overlap period experiencing problems and difficulties this week
Reports are, however, filtering in regarding problems, delays and stressful situations being encountered by travellers from France, the United States and the United Kingdom who indicated that the Thailand Pass system is causing ongoing difficulties for eligible passengers trying to fly into Thailand.
One of the first issues, and one which was highlighted by the Thai Examiner days before the reopening of the country last weekend, concerned the Certificate of Entry system where travellers had applications already in process when that system closed down abruptly some days before the new Thailand Pass system took over.
Fears for travellers trying to access Thailand in the interim period as Thailand Pass launch nears GO
A UK traveller expressed his frustration this week to The Phuket News newspaper in Phuket after spending a full day in online and telephone contact with Thai government agencies in both London and Bangkok.
Already submitted a complete Certificate of Entry application which was rejected leaving him only 7 days to reprocess from last Monday
His Certificate of Entry application was submitted a month in advance with all the right documentation in anticipation of a flight on Monday the 8th of November.
Last week, this was rejected and he was requested to apply again through the Thailand Pass system where he encountered an extended range of technical glitches and difficulties.
There are also reports that the Thailand Pass system does not work properly if the applicants are depending on Microsoft email accounts to receive confirmation and QR code entry approvals as the server appears not to be able to communicate with that network.
System could not send email to users with Microsoft email accounts such as Hotmail and Outlook
This is, in fact, an ongoing problem for many enterprises in Thailand due to the US tech giant’s anti-spam filtering facilities which, over the years, has led millions of exasperated users to migrate to Gmail.
This week a potential American traveller discovered the same issue.
‘It also looks like their system does not work with Microsoft email systems,’ he declared. ‘No submission receipt and no QR code received.’
The UK traveller, while he confirmed that he must get back to Phuket for as significant social engagement, explained that if he was just a normal tourist, he would have given up long ago given the problems that he encountered trying to obtain his pass to enter Thailand.
Normal tourists would just give up
‘I need to be back in Phuket, but if I were a tourist, I would have given up,’ he said as he outlined the problems for other prospective visitors and also perhaps for government officials in Thailand working with the Digital Government Development Agency who are responsible for the Thailand Pass system.
He said he had begun in early October the process of obtaining clearance to travel to Phuket on the 8th November arriving on the 9th.
Unfortunately for him, his Certificate of Entry application, although fully complete and submitted, was rejected because of the switchover to the new system.
Began on Monday 1st November to process his application anew through the Thailand Pass system
On Monday, the 1st of November, he began a new effort to have his flight cleared for the following week. This week, he gave details of what he had been through
‘So I got up at 2.00 am in London on Monday, that’s 9 am Bangkok time, to register for a Thailand Pass. I was concerned that the rules had changed, that as I was leaving on the 8th November, in just 7 days, I needed the maximum amount of time to get the Thailand Pass,’ he explained this week. ‘I spent over 9 hours on a keyboard, chat sessions and chatting to people trying to get an application received by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.’
He explained that he needed to upload five key pieces of information to obtain his Thailand Pass QR code or boarding pass.
This included a copy of his passport photo page, a copy of the certificate for each vaccine dose, the QR code for each vaccine jab, evidence of his Safety and Health Administration (SHA) Plus accommodation which includes the price of the only PCR test for COVID-19 required and a copy of his insurance certificate showing the appropriate medical cover.
System only works with the Chrome browser
The first thing he confirmed is that, in his experience, the Thailand Pass system will only work with the Google Chrome browser.
He then experienced an error message: ‘error in API server’ which he managed to work around by downloading a Google Chrome extension called ‘CORS’.
The British traveller was planning to travel with a Thai Elite visa but the organisation behind the programme could not provide him with assistance.
He spent 15 hours, in all, working on his laptop including 3 telephone calls and 5 emails in his effort to get through the system and obtain a Thailand Pass entry code.
Visited the Thai Embassy in London to be told it was all managed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Finally, he visited the Thai Embassy at Queens Gate in London where staff were exceedingly polite and friendly but of little use to him.
‘I visited the Thai Embassy in London and chatted and explained in seeking help. The staff were nice and all I heard was: ‘We know, we know but can’t help as it is managed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok.’
He said he was told there were hundreds and possibly thousands of travellers worldwide experiencing the same problems last week with the Thailand Pass system.
Wonders why the system cannot be made convenient?
He had to get to Thailand so this traveller could not have given up but he wonders why the situation cannot be normalised, made to work properly and be convenient for incoming visitors.
‘If I fail to get a Thailand Pass in time then I have to delay my flight, change the hotel booking and COVID tests, book extra days in a hotel, but if I change the date then I have to put in a new application. The application needs definite dates for flight arrivals and hotel bookings ‒ so how long do you allow?’ he asked in frustration this week.
‘Having started the process a month before my return travel date, I am essentially faced with ever-increasing hurdles. Essentially I picked a date of November 9 a month ago not knowing how crucial one day is.’
A survey in the Thai Examiner this week found that 50% understood the Thailand Pass system but the other 50% had difficulty navigating their way through it.
Kingdom may see up to 1 million tourists this year but it will be an uphill battle to get back to 2019
85% said it could be made simpler to use.
Mother of three waited in Paris last week for clearance for a flight leaving on Sunday, last minute approval came through on Saturday sparking relief
Early on Saturday morning, a mother with two children, based in Paris who was to fly out on Sunday to Thailand from Switzerland to Phuket expressed her relief after, finally, three QR passes for two of her children and herself came through.
The mother of three had suffered a nightmarish week during which a pass for herself and two of her children could not be processed while her husband and another child received theirs, in a momentary breakthrough, as she did battle with the online application.
The family of five had, like the UK traveller, already submitted a full Certificate of Entry application in October and had to commence last Monday trying to navigate their way through the system encountering the same API error and other complications.
This includes also making the mistake of using Microsoft email accounts including the popular Hotmail and Outlook services.
‘In the end, we managed to get my husband and my eldest daughter a QR code,’ she said on Friday as she began contacting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok through the LINE social messaging application.
Traveller accepted that the site was being improved as she used it but decries the stress involved for visitors
At that point, she felt she had managed to successfully submit the applications but was awaiting confirmation and the entry QR codes.
‘On Friday, I managed to find the LINE ID of the Department of Consular Affairs Thailand. So I tried my luck and sent them a message. Very quickly they replied asking for my details,’ she revealed. ‘I replied immediately. About two hours later they also asked me for my phone number. Again I replied immediately. And then nothing.’
She acknowledged that she did notice some work ongoing on the Thailand Pass application and website but could not help vent her frustration at being left in limbo with a limited time frame to get the required documentation to board the family’s flight to Thailand on Sunday the 7th November.
The pressure and stress levels are quite unbearable as many travellers may have flight bookings or hotel reservations that cannot be changed or are not refundable.
Finally received the QR codes on Saturday morning
The woman’s children go to school in Phuket and they are another example of passengers who must return to the kingdom.
‘They amended their website between yesterday and today, I submitted each time but still no QR code. It is a total nightmare,’ she said on Friday.
‘It is Friday morning here in Paris and we fly Sunday morning, November 7th, arriving on November 8th. I am very worried. We need to do our PCR test but still don’t know if I will receive the approval or not. Are they working 24 hours a day even on weekends? Are they considering the requests depending on the departure date? I hope so.’
The woman finally and joyfully received an email with the required QR codes on Saturday morning. The system had finally worked.
‘Anyhow, they finally sent me my personal QR code, as well as the QR code of my two children at 4.37 am this morning, which is just about 24 hours before my departure,’ she revealed. ‘I am so relieved you can’t imagine!’
Resorted to social media where other users internationally were experiencing the same problems
She explained how she had been using social media to network with other people around the world experiencing the same problems online.
‘I read on Facebook that we should use a Gmail address and not Hotmail. So I did it again. It then worked for my daughter, who is older than twelve, and my husband. The QR code was received immediately,’ she explained.
‘Then I did mine which includes two children under twelve. There was nowhere to input their insurance and I got the API error. The next day, about seven hours later, they had amended the website and I did it again and was able to input the insurance for the kids, but there is still nowhere to include the booking number for the hotel.’
Top Ministry of Foreign Affairs official acknowledged issues with Thailand Pass but said they had been rectified and the system was being improved
Earlier in the week, Mr Tanee acknowledged that there had been issues with the Thailand Pass system but said they had been rectified.
He suggested the problems with the platform may have also been due to ‘external interferences’ and that staff from the Digital Government Development Agency were working constantly on the service to perfect and debug it in response to user feedback.
Over the weekend, the ministry also warned about a fake website purporting to be the official Thailand Pass website and warned prospective passengers to be vigilant and stay clear.
The official government site can be found here:
The official site continues to process applications.
The reopening is going well with a surge in online interest and bookings confirmed by the Airbnb site
In the meantime, interest in Thailand is surging with Airbnb reporting an 80% jump in the last week of October alone on foot of news of the wider and more liberal reopening as online users begin to see foreigners enjoying themselves in Bangkok where the ban on alcohol has been lifted to 9 pm by authorities.
The initial spike in searches occurred in key markets for the kingdom during the high season with traffic in Germany, Australia, Switzerland and South Korea reporting very significant rises.
The tech firm also reported a brisk trade in foreigners booking accommodation and villas in Thailand particularly in Phuket and said the following countries showed sizable traffic looking at Thai destinations: the United States, Russia, Australia, Germany, South Korea, Switzerland, United Kingdom, France, Canada and Sweden.