Thailand records December rush of tourists, but Omicron clouds brewing

A few days in December as travellers keep rolling into Thailand.

On the day before Christmas, 11,533 passengers arrived in Thailand, the highest daily number since the borders were opened for fully vaccinated tourists, with only one night of quarantine, on November 1. 7,454 of those passengers arrived at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Up to December 24, 217,101 travellers have arrived in Thailand. Some of them will be tourists heading to the country’s hot spots for a Thai Christmas, re-uniting with friends and family, or just enjoying a tropical holiday (unless they’re heading north at this time of the year).

If the trend for December continues, that will result in around 280,000 people coming to Thailand this month. That’s a significant uptick from November (around 130,000) but still only 8 percent of the travellers that arrived in Thailand in the month of December 2019, before the pandemic kicked off around the world.

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Still, given the global Omicron-induced travel dramas this week, Thailand’s December arrival spike is a welcome change for the country’s hospitality businesses who have been one of the hardest hit industries.

So where have the travellers been arriving from?

Mostly from Germany with 18,434 arrivals up to December 24 this month. Then the UK with 15,321, Russia with 9,667 and the US with 8,871.

Beyond the top 4, contributors to Thailand’s December tourist mix…

5. Singapore 8,402

6. France 8,268

7. Sweden 7,737

8. UAE 6,961

9. South Korea 5,593

10. Norway 5,059

But Omicron clouds are brewing as the December surge of tourists will drop in January due to a range of factors, not the least being the Thai Government’s decision to suspend applications for the Test & Go, and Sandbox, programs (except the Phuket Sandbox) until at least January 4. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs say they are still honouring approved applications before 11.59pm on Tuesday December 21, as well as applications made up to that date, that may be approved.

And fully vaccinated tourists can still apply under the Phuket Sandbox for a quarantine free experience on the island for 7 days, then head off to anywhere they want to travel in Thailand.

The other big question mark for travellers at this time is flights. Are their flights still coming to Thailand as scheduled. In the past week hundreds of airlines, around the world, have been altering their schedules and cancelling flights.In the US both Delta and United Airlines announced they were having to scale back schedules because the Omicron variant had overwhelmed sufficient staff to affect their operations. Over 4,500 flights have been cancelled or postponed as of yesterday, around the world, according to Flighttracker.

So travellers should be checking the status of their flights constantly to keep on top of the changes.

And between today and January 4, the next date of arrival procedures for Thailand, there could be additional tweaks or changes by Thai authorities, although the Omicron situation in Thailand has not dramatically surged like in the US, UK and parts of Europe. Yet.

Today Thailand reported 2,532 new Covid infections and 22 deaths, with another 962 suspected ATK infections awaiting confirmation.

Meanwhile, an Omicron Covid cluster in Kalasin, in mid north-east Thailand, aded another 64 infections yesterday.

A doctor at the Siriraj Piyamaharajkarun Hospital in Kalasin say that up to 50% of all new cases in January “could be of the new Covid-19 variant”.

The recent cluster has again been linked to staff and customers of a bar and restaurant which an infected married couple visited on December 12.

SOURCE: FRB | Reuters

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Tim Newton

Tim joined The Thaiger as one of its first employees in 2018 as an English news writer/editor and then began to present The Thaiger's Daily news show in 2020, Thailand News Today (or TNT for short). He has lived in Thailand since 2011, having relocated from Australia.

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