Minister Anutin told a public forum on Friday that the Thailand Pass application could still be scrapped but health officials need more time to examine the test data in respect of incoming tourists. Friday’s decision comes as Thailand continues to lag behind its regional peers in the recovery of the kingdom’s foreign tourism industry prompting growing concerns that something may be wrong or that the critical foreign tourism industry may have suffered long term damage because of this emergency despite the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) announcing revised projections for up to 8 million foreign tourist arrivals this year with 1 million arrivals to May 9th.

Thailand, on Friday, did away with Thailand Pass for returning nationals from June 1st but retained the system for incoming foreign tourists in a move which will come as a disappointment to the kingdom’s struggling tourism sector. However, the news was not all bad as officials announced that the system would now be automatic with instant access to QR codes without a waiting period. This process will also be accessible to non-vaccinated tourists although these have only accounted for 2% of arrivals so far this year. 

On Friday, Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul told a public audience in Bangkok that the Thailand Pass application may eventually be abolished but his officials need time to study the data. The decision comes as the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has revised its target for foreign tourists to 8 million this year with 1 million arrivals seen to May 9th.

Thai officials on Friday did not scrap the Thailand Pass entry system from June 1st as requested by the foreign tourism industry but instead exempted incoming Thai nationals from the procedure while also making it easier and fully automatic for incoming foreign tourists.

It comes as Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin of the kingdom’s Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) told reporters that the country had seen 1 million arrivals from January 1st this year to May 9th, a figure which is less than 10% of arrivals seen in 2019 but one which dwarfs the number seen last year in Thailand which saw more than 99% of the country’s foreign tourism sector wiped out when compared to figures for both 2020 and 2019.

98% of 1 million tourist arrivals in Thailand up to May 9th last were fully vaccinated – CCSA official

The top official revealed that 98% of those arriving over this period were fully vaccinated.

Friday’s announcement also saw the entry regime improved for non-vaccinated and not fully vaccinated arrivals meaning that they can now also obtain a Thailand Pass QR code by supplying details of RT-PCR test or a professionally supervised antigen test within 72 hours of departure to the Thailand Pass system.

This will then give them full access to the country.

The powerful government committee chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha agreed that the Thailand Pass system would be scrapped for incoming Thai nationals, something proposed at the beginning of this month by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul.

Thailand Pass linked to Emergency Decree as Anutin wants priority for Thais ahead of foreign tourists

At a public forum event at the Siam Paragon Shopping Centre in Bangkok on Friday, Mr Anutin explained that his ministry needed more time before it could approve dropping the Thailand Pass system for incoming foreigners.

Minister tells forum he wants more data on foreign tourists before deciding to scrap Thailand Pass

He said this was based on requiring more detailed information on infection rates for incoming foreigners.

It had been announced repeatedly in recent weeks by officials with both the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) and the Ministry of Public Health that the incoming rate of infection among foreign travellers was far below the rate in Thailand itself.

Nevertheless, the minister disclosed that data in relation to this question must be studied before a conclusion can be reached and that this will take one more month.

‘It’s possible that we will cancel the registration requirement of Thailand Pass for foreigners. We need one more month then we will have a clear answer,’ he told the public audience at the event.

Plan to pursue health measures and a controlled regime even after the emergency comes to an end

He also indicated that his ministry was determined to pursue further vaccination of the population while maintaining vigilance against the lingering threat from the disease while it was pursuing a course of relaxing measures.

‘We have seen the results of our control measures including having a high percentage of the population receive two doses’ he said. ‘That is the reason why we started to relax some regulations.’

The minister praised his officials for making sure the public had full access to medicines and, in particular, singled out telemedicine as an effective innovation at this time.

Some good news, Thailand Pass to become automatic giving instant access to the vital QR entry code

There was still some good news in Friday’s decision for foreign tourists coming to Thailand.

The Thailand Pass system, although retained for foreigners, will now become automatic with instant access to a QR entry code being made available to travellers with different requirements for vaccinated and fully vaccinated travellers.

For fully vaccinated arrivals, the input requirements into the system include passport details, vaccination details and evidence of insurance cover for a minimum of $10,000.

However, the screening procedures at airports will be maintained with the QR code being essential for entry after which there are no further requirements for all foreign visitors.

PM expresses confidence that we have seen signs of a recovery of Thailand’s foreign tourism industry

Deputy government spokesperson Rachada Dhnadirek said the number of foreign tourist arrivals and revenue in the first quarter of 2022 was no less than 2000% of what was seen a year earlier.

She explained that Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha sees this as a solid indicator that the industry is poised to grow again.

However, there are growing doubts about the speed of this recovery with a belief that this month’s failure to abolish the unpopular Thailand Pass system could be a factor in exacerbating what industry leaders have pointed to as a failure to maintain momentum.

Boosted numbers after abolishing Test and Go

After the Test and Go regime was scrapped in May, officials suggest that numbers rose from 6,000 per day on average to 20,000 per day towards the end of this month.

Nevertheless, Thailand is still only achieving 25% of its peak level of foreign tourism compared to 72% for Singapore and 65% for the Philippines.

This lag has, so far, been blamed on Thailand Pass and a lack of confidence among potential foreign travellers because of the extended nature of Thailand’s shutdown from 2020 up to the beginning of this year when we saw reversals and continued delays in opening up. 

Face masks an issue for western tourists as Singapore already scrapped its outdoor mask mandate in March

An example of this is the issue of face masks with Singapore doing away with its mask mandate for outdoor locations in March even though it is estimated that 90% of Singaporeans still wear them.

Face masks to be still needed in Thailand even after the emergency said Minster Anutin this week

By contrast, Thailand’s Minister of Public Health, Mr Anutin, said last week he wished to retain face mask-wearing even after the emergency is declared over and tasked officials with seeing how this could be done.

In the meantime, all 76 Thai provinces require face masks to be worn outdoors with a fine of up to ฿20,000 for non-compliance.

By contrast, mask mandates have been rescinded in most western countries and population centres with most adults choosing not to wear them.

Hopes of a bigger recovery in tourism this year dashed with fears of long term damage to the industry

In recent weeks, Minister Anutin’s Bhumjaithai Party cabinet colleague Saksayam Chidchob, the Minister of Transport, had been holding out hope for as many as 22 million visitors to the kingdom this year or just 55% of the 2019 figure but this prospect has receded with growing concern within the industry that the kingdoms tourism industry has suffered long term damage.

This week, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) announced that it was now projecting more than 1 million visitors per month from June with a revised target of 8 million visitors for the year.

Thailand, according to the latest numbers and other observers, may be on target to achieve approximately 6 million visitors in 2022 or 15% of the number seen in 2019 given that Chinese tourists will not be returning this year.

This is based on a strong recovery in the last quarter of the year with a return to normal including full unrestricted access and a resumption of the full spectrum of the nightlife industry which is seen by foreign tourists as an essential part of Thailand’s appeal as a holiday destination.

Nightlife industry gets boost, but it is a case of too little too late with operators seeking extended opening hours to compensate for two years of loss

This proposal received a boost on Friday when the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) finally agreed to let nightlife venues reopen in blue and green zones covering all tourist hotspots.

The decision means that bars, pubs and karaoke lounges will now be allowed to open until midnight provided that they are fully registered with authorities, conform to quality specifications as laid down by officially approved standards and comply with Ministry of Public Health guidelines.

Nightlife industry proposes reopening of the sector and shakeup with longer drinking hours in hotspots

The delay in responding to the industry request has already seen the original demand to be allowed to reopen superseded by an official request to allow extended opening hours until 4 am for the industry to assist operators in their recovery from the setback of this pandemic crisis which has meant two years of losses with  business venues shuttered during this time.

Join the Thai News forum, follow Thai Examiner on Facebook here
Receive all our stories as they come out on Telegram here
Follow Thai Examiner here

Further reading:

Face masks to be still needed in Thailand even after the emergency said Minster Anutin this week

Thailand Pass linked to Emergency Decree as Anutin wants priority for Thais ahead of foreign tourists

Proposal to scrap Thailand Pass from June 1st as Thailand seeks tourism-driven economic growth

Anutin may agree to abolish Thailand Pass but wants all foreign tourists to have booster shots

Thailand Pass stalling visitors who wish to travel after May 1st as industry wants the app scrapped

Test and Go scrapped, a giant step by officials that removes testing for incoming air passengers to Thailand

Decision time on plans to ease further restrictions on foreign tourists with strong conflicting views at this time

Minister proposes that vaccinated tourists fly in without notice from May 1st to boost the economy

Fears growing that Covid may yet derail plans to reopen fully to foreign tourism from July 1st next

Minister says Thailand Pass could be gone by June 1st, but suggests the retention of a test on arrival

Travel sector calls for endemic status, scrapping of Thailand Pass and full normality on entry to the country

Thai tourism emphasises its neutrality in the Ukraine war, calls for a review of payment systems

Thailand moving to scrap all tourist restrictions this year once the Covid virus is declared endemic

Opposition targets Test and Go for spreading the virus as government insists on endemic status

Test and Go ready for take off again but this time with added baggage including a second PCR test

PM orders a re-evaluation of the balance between public health and economy as Omicron fears ease

Pandemic drawing to a close, senior public health official says growing Omicron strain is harmless

Top official describes the popular ‘Test and Go’ entry as a loophole exposing Thailand to Omicron

Tourism business owners think the unthinkable, the Omicron storm may bring with it good news

Minister suggests that ‘Test and Go’ now paused entry regime may be restarted in the New Year

Omicron nightmare for already troubled tourism sector: plan to suspend ‘Test and Go’ entry route

Omicron has arrived in Thailand but top officials believe they can manage an escalating situation

Thailand pushes ahead with foreign tourism drive, may defer switch to antigen testing over Omicron

Health officials asks for a review of the list of 63 countries allowed to enter without quarantine

Nightlife to reopen on a certified basis as officials try to balance public health and the economy

Thailand Pass is being upgraded but passenger stress stories continue with cancellation threats

Tourism reopening may lose momentum as government pivots back to public health priorities

Incoming passengers vent frustration at problems and bugs with the Thailand Pass system this week

Kingdom may see up to 1 million tourists this year but it will be an uphill battle to get back to 2019

Vaccinated tourists from 63 countries can leave SHA plus hotels after 1st night says top official in Phuket

Fears for travellers trying to access Thailand in the interim period as Thailand Pass launch nears GO

Russian and Indian travellers unhappy at entry rules for November 1st, call for simpler plans

Most tourists will be able to travel freely in Thailand once they pass their first test on arrival here

46 countries green-lighted as Thailand’s tourism business is set to take off from November 1st

Bright lights may be turned on again for foreign tourism as hated Certificate of Entry is to be axed

TAT boss: quarantine remains for 1 day to test all visitors, no going back to old tourism pub scenes

PM’s reopening order-only the beginning of the end of this cataclysmic crisis for Thai tourism

High-quality tourism dream may be making the COVID-19 crisis for the industry even worse than it should be

Tourism chief again plans to open up Thailand’s rock bottom tourism industry to cryptocurrencies

Dysfunction hits reopening of Thailand to tourism as Health Minister dismisses October 1st date

Bangkok reopening delayed as figures for fully vaccinated must nearly double by October 15th to go ahead

New normal tourism may see foreign and local tourists segregated at Pattaya tourist attractions

Only 13% will visit Thailand under the kingdom’s demanding entry process with 2021 economic growth at stake

October reopening of foreign tourism to Thailand could be another false dawn with cumbersome entry regime

Richest man in Thailand says COVID-19 is like a World War, the kingdom could end up a big loser in the end

Foreigners in Thailand have nearly ฿600 billion in the bank as inequality and poverty rise alarmingly

Rising prospect of GDP contraction for 2021 may see government breach the legal public debt limit

A dead mother beside her children and a taxi driver who slept, show us a nation riven by an extended crisis

Economic fears rising as Thailand faces a bigger crisis than 1997 with rising job losses and debt

Baht falling with confidence in Thailand waning as foreign tourism closure and virus drive funds out