More foreign tourists are part of the answer for Thailand’s still challenged economy. Figures released by the government show falling unemployment in line with rising foreign tourist numbers from the beginning of the year. However, the kingdom needs all the purchasing power it can get with a record household debt and the rising danger of a price shock after May with inflation still running at elevated levels. The Vice President of the Tourism Council of Thailand, Wichit Prakobkosol, says that as many as 12 million foreign tourists can be attracted to Thailand in 2022 if the government responds positively.
It has emerged this week that the Thailand Pass application is stalling potential tourists in their efforts to travel to the kingdom after May 1st with the site advising potential travellers that they will only be able to make such applications after April 29th when a simpler version of the application will appear online. Industry leaders are becoming more vocal in calling for the abolition of the system and a return to normal entry procedures saying it will boost foreign tourism traffic this year by at least 2 million visitors if introduced from June 1st.
As many of the country’s foreign tourism leaders call for its replacement, it appears that the Thailand Pass application is again causing inconvenience to potential foreign tourists trying to book a holiday in Thailand.
In recent days, travel industry sources are reporting that the application, which now controls entry to Thailand for millions, is refusing to accept applications for the period after May 1st until the 29th of April.
This is reportedly due to a reorganisation of the application to accommodate the decisive move last week by the government to scrap the country’s Test and Go entry regime.
Simpler Thailand Pass application from April 29th with only three requirements for vaccinated travellers
This will mean a far simpler Thailand Pass application will now be unveiled in the coming days which will only require three inputs from vaccinated travellers entering the kingdom after May 1st.
This will be the traveller’s passport details, vaccination certificate and proof of insurance, including coverage for Covid, up to $10,000.
The new Thailand Pass will divide potential travellers into two categories, those who are vaccinated and those who are not.
Obviously, for unvaccinated arrivals, the requirements are a bit more demanding.
This group is split between two methods of entry, the first being travellers wishing to enter Thailand without quarantine.
This group must still submit evidence of a negative test within 72 hours of departure, passport details and proof of insurance with coverage of $10,000.
This latter requirement only applies to non-Thai nationals entering the kingdom.
Unvaccinated travellers to Thailand required to submit more information with only two options
The second group of unvaccinated people are those who are entering while spending 5 days in quarantine which applies to those who are not in a position to render a negative test within 72 hours of departure.
These passengers must submit their passport details, proof of payment for their alternative quarantine stay and a certificate of insurance coverage of up to $10,000.
In the meantime, anyone who has already been approved to enter the country under the Thailand Pass system may use the code already generated to travel to the kingdom without change or further inconvenience.
Calls to scrap Thailand Pass grow louder
The calls to abolish the Thailand Pass application and a return to normal entry procedures, however, are growing louder.
This week, Mr Wichit Prakobkosol, the Vice President of the Tourism Council of Thailand, added his voice to others in the industry saying that if the government was to stand down the entry procedure or application from June 1st, then a further 2 million visitors would be achieved by the end of 2022.
His body estimates that Thailand is still on course to achieve 8 million visitors this year which would be 33% more than the current projections of the Bank of Thailand and World Bank but that an overall figure of 10 million could be reached with that concession.
Mr Wichit said the application was particularly tiresome and difficult on those organising tour groups who may wish to enter Thailand and also felt that June 1st was the right time for the government to make the move.
‘July is summer break for the short-haul market because families will plan overseas trips, particularly to celebrate after university entrance examinations, so Thailand has to prepare in advance to capture this opportunity,’ he explained in recent days.
Thailand could achieve 12 million foreign tourists if the Chinese market comes back at the end of 2022
Mr Wichit, nevertheless, welcomed last week’s significant easing of measures and the cancellation of the Test and Go regime but said that this further step was still required.
He said that his organisation feels that the kingdom could achieve twice as many as projected by economic analysts this year if, towards the end of 2022, the Chinese market came back on stream to be met by a far easier and less restrictive entry regime.
He said this would add 2 million arrivals to the country’s tally, bringing the total to 12 million.
Meanwhile, the country may badly need more foreign tourists this year with expectations that export growth over the coming two quarters may be more subdued than the strong performance seen from January to March.
Rising numbers of foreign tourists already impacting the kingdom’s fragile economy in a positive way
There is also significant evidence that the rising inflow of foreign tourists has already begun to benefit the economy although the current figures are still at levels nowhere near those achieved three years ago or even the higher strata of expected figures that have been bandied about in recent weeks.
In January, there were 133,903 foreign tourists followed by 152,954 in February and 189,818 in March.
By comparison, the average monthly arrivals figure in 2019 was 3.3 million.
However, unemployment dipped by 35% in January 2022 from the year previously with a 27% drop in February which, in absolute terms, was a 5.05% drop from the month before.
Good economic news, the test now is how to emerge from stagflation with a large price shock looming as inflation rises
The kingdom needs the extra income in the face of rising inflation which, according to the Ministry of Commerce, ran at 5.8% in February and 5.7% in March.
Threatened price shock for working Thais over summer months must be tackled with rising inflation
The country is also being threatened with a price shock after May when government subsidies on diesel fuel run out, a situation that combined with a quarterly resupply cycle for shops and the wholesale trade, is threatening to see the country face a price shock.
Homes will need all the purchasing power than can get with economic data showing that Thai households are still borrowing to make ends meet with the country’s household debt running at 90.1% of GDP or ฿14.58 trillion.
The other key consideration is the tightening position regarding the government’s finances despite a rise in income and tax receipts announced last week.
Government is already tightening its belt
Minister of Finance, Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, in recent days, intimated that renewed fiscal discipline will now be pursued as opposed to fiscal stimulus and priming the economic pump with inflation already in take-off mode.
This could mean the government may be willing to listen to the tourist bosses on the ground like Mr Thanet Suparashasrangsi of the Tourism Council in Chonburi who, on Monday, called on the government to just make it easier for tourists and their money to come and visit the kingdom.
He said that many people, particularly elderly visitors, simply haven’t got the patience and time to do the online paperwork and are thus going elsewhere.