Coronavirus (Covid-19)PattayaPhuketTourism

Pattaya tourist leaders call for local Sandbox as hotel bookings drop

“The permit to arrive in Thailand is the least of the problems for many potential international tourists as airlines around the world have been cancelling services.”

Whilst the southern island of Phuket appears to be a winner in the government’s recent, and selective, alterations to its Thailand Pass options, Thailand’s other main tourist hot spot outside Bangkok, Pattaya, has again been left out in the cold.

The CCSA last Tuesday afternoon suspended the Test & Go re-entry option until at least January 4 when the system will be reviewed. But the government has promised to honour all existing, and approved, Test & Go applications before the option was closed down (as well as applications made before the cut off time and are still being processed – but not all will be approved).

The government also shelved the country’s Sandbox options, where people could stay for at least 7 days roaming around a region, before then being allowed to go anywhere in Thailand… a sort of ‘regional quarantine’. But the Phuket Sandbox was left to operate, whilst the other Sandboxes will remain suspended until at least January 4 (when the CCSA says they’ll review the options).

So, with no new Test & Go applications, the tourist trickle will continue for a few more weeks into places like Pattaya. But then what?

Hotel room bookings in the seaside party town have dropped significantly, according to local tourism leaders, leading to a call for Pattaya to become a controlled Sandbox zone like Phuket.

Speaking to The Pattaya News, Boonanan Pattanasin, president of the Pattaya Businessmen and Tourism Association, said that “the number of hotel rooms booked in Pattaya have dropped significantly”.

“Many tourists are planning to come to Pattaya during the high season from January to February. We need either the Test & Go system to remain open for this registration so that tourists can come to Pattaya after New Year or allow Pattaya to become a Sandbox.”

“Pattaya is similar to Phuket. We have many tourism attractions and businesses and rely on tourism for about 85% of our GDP.

Tourists wising to travel to Pattaya, or anywhere else in the country, at this time will either need….

  1. An approved Thailand Pass Test & Go permit that was issued before midnight on Tuesday night (December 21).
  2. A Thailand Pass Test & Go permit that was applied for before midnight on Tuesday night (December 21), and has since been approved
  3. An approved Sandbox re-entry (for any of the Sandboxes) approved before midnight on Tuesday night (December 21), or an application made before the cut-off date which has since been approved

But people wishing to travel to Pattaya, or anywhere else in Thailand, even if they missed the cut off date last Monday, will still be allowed to enter Thailand through the Phuket Sandbox. The Phuket Sandbox is available for fully vaccinated tourists but requires them to do a number of PCR tests before and after arrival, and stay on the island for at least 7 days. The must arrive at the Phuket International Airport as their entry point into Thailand.

After 7 days on the island, travellers are permitted to travel anywhere in Thailand.

For unvaccinated travellers who want to enter Thailand at this time, even during the suspension of the Test & Go program, they can still enter at any international airport and undergo full quarantine, from 10 – 14 days, depending on the country of origin, at an approved AQ hotel.

For now, with the traditional busy Christmas and New Year peak slipping through their fingers, Pattaya businesses are urging the government for a reprieve.

“We request to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration that Pattaya be made a sandbox during this suspension period. We have extremely high vaccination rates, incredible hotel capacity, and experienced tourism businesses ready to make this program work.”

One benefit that Phuket has, geographically, is that the process of isolating all passengers is much easier, with the airport, all accommodation and attractions ALL on the one island, separated from the Thai mainland by a 400 metre-long bridge.

Last week’s suspension of the Test & Go, and Sandbox, programs (except Phuket), has thrown many traveller’s plans into confusion. But the permit to arrive in Thailand is the least of the problems for many potential international tourists. Airlines around the world have been cancelling services. At least 2 airlines in the US yesterday announced mass cancellations of services due high sickness rates amongst their staff.

“United, Delta and other U.S. airlines have canceled more than 600 Christmas Eve flights as a surge in Covid-19 cases impacts their staff, the airlines said. The cancellations came as the Transportation Safety Administration said the number of people traveling for the holiday is returning to pre-pandemic levels.” – cbsnews.com

Airlines in other countries are facing similar problems as the Omicron variant, reportedly less dangerous but with a much higher infection rate, continues to cause steep rises in the numbers of infections and starting to impact hospital systems in some countries

Potential travellers are also still facing problems with return procedures to their home country after their trip to Thailand. The situation is extremely fluid and there still could be changes to the Thailand Pass and re-entry rules in Thailand at any time, before or after January 4.

The Thaiger would recommend, if you are still coming to Thailand over the next few weeks, to keep in contact with your airline as well as your local embassy. Also, keep reading the Thailand Pass website as well as the tatnews.org website.

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Tim Newton

Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2011. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for 42 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program (public radio Australia), presented over 11,000 radio news bulletins, 3,950 in Thailand alone, hosted 1050 daily TV news programs and produced 2,100 videos, TV commercials and documentaries. He also reported for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue and other major stories in Thailand.
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