Thailand presses ahead with plans to re-open to tourists in October

REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File Photo

Thailand still plans to open to vaccinated foreign tourists from October, a government spokesman has said.

The new measures will enable foreigners to visit the likes of Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, Koh Samui and eventually Hua Hin without the need to quarantine from October 1, deputy government spokeswoman Traisulee Traisoranakul said.

The move will help Thailand revive its tourism sector, ordinarily a key industry but one which has been left decimated by COVID-19 travel curbs.

For more than one year, Thailand has tightened its rules for anyone entering the country in order to try and limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Under the rules, all visitors and returning residents have been required to undergo 14 days of quarantine in government-approved facilities.

The news comes as officials in Phuket have said they are still preparing to reopen the country to foreign tourists in July.

The plan, dubbed the ‘Phuket Sandbox’ will be the pilot scheme for Thailand’s broader plan of opening up other regions to overseas visitors.

In order for the Phuket Sandbox scheme to begin, officials aim to vaccinate 70 percent of the island’s population before the re-opening and before mass vaccinations begin throughout Thailand.

In 2019, Thailand welcomed a record 39.9 million visitors who generated some 1.91 trillion baht to the economy.

In 2020, just 6.7 million tourists arrived, most of which were in the first two months of the year, before COVID-19 travel restrictions were implemented in Thailand and around the world.

Tourism officials estimate that by opening up to vaccinated tourists around 3.5 million people could visit Thailand this year, generating about 298 billion baht in revenue.

Until last month, Thailand had only experienced relatively minor outbreaks of the virus.

However, the country is currently experiencing a third wave, it’s worst yet, and one which has seen the number of cases double and fatalities more than triple.

Critics have said the government has been slow to procure and administer COVID-19 vaccines, with just over 1.5 million doses given so far.

Anutin Charnvirankul, Thailand’s health minister has said expects 10 million to 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to be available in the second half of the year.