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TAT will use domestic tourism as dress rehearsal for international returns

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“…the tourism sector will continue to be stifled by disease control measures until a Covid-19 vaccine is developed.”

Due to the current ban on international arrivals, extended several times and now in effect until at least July, the Tourism Authority of Thailand has created a strategy to support domestic tourism and “learn from the experience”, as it eases into the inevitable challenge of luring back international tourists.

In a feature posted on its website earlier this week, the TAT said it had identified some basic truths; one of them being that the tourism sector will continue to be stifled by disease control measures until a Covid-19 vaccine is developed.

“This will affect and change all behaviour and patterns of traditional travel and tourism activities starting with the aviation experience.”

The agency predicts that only the strongest people will travel as tourists focus more than before on their health and safety. The so-called “new normal,” which is actually highly abnormal for Thai tourism, will concentrate on less travel, smaller gatherings and avoiding crowds. This is the opposite of what made Thai tourism the success it was before the pandemic… group tours, especially from China, festivals, large scale events, and a massive nightlife and entertainment industry (with all the related health risks), gave the country 39.8 million tourists last year. This year the kingdom will be lucky to attract a third of that number, and that’s supremely optimistic given the current risk-averse Thai government.

Both mainstream and niche markets will be evaluated for opportunities, but Thailand’s tourism industry is highly dependent on international arrivals, and it will ultimately be consumers who decide if and when they’re comfortable travelling overseas.

Visitors to Thailand, as of now, are required to obtain a fit-to-fly medical certificate and medical insurance cover, that includes Covid-19 treatment, valued at 100,000 US$ (3.1 million baht). Only people with current work permits or an ‘urgent’ need to return, are considered for possible re-entry at the moment.

Here are some more considerations that may be imposed, according to the TAT…

• The number of tourists will be limited to avoid congestion

• Once landed in Thailand, tourists will be required to undergo a Covid-19 rapid screening process for reconfirmation, and then depart to a sealed area resort location, most likely islands, without any stops

• The swab tests are not 100% reliable and require 6-12 hours for processing, which might not be practical for airports to manage

• Financial support will have to be extended to airlines and tour operators to use in public relations and tourism marketing campaigns

While in Thailand, tourists will have to install and use the Thai Chana tracking application on their smartphones when travelling in and out of sealed areas. Basically the focus will be on high-end international tourists who can afford the expensive medical insurance and are prepared to be transported to a “bubble” in a beach resort.

The TAT also floated the idea of a tax for outbound Thai tourists to support domestic tourism, while exempting visa application fees at Thai embassies and consulates in other countries, including visa-on-arrival fees. This move would require a compensation budget for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Immigration Bureau’s lost revenue.

(Bottomline: If these measures are to be rolled out there are very few tourists who will be inclined to jump through the hoops and then be ‘imprisoned’ in a location for the duration of their stay. The TAT also foreshadows the idea of a ‘vaccine stamp’ where people without a Covid-19 vaccine wouldn’t be allowed to enter the country – The Thaiger)

SOURCE: TTR Weekly

 

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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