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From 40 million visitors to 41: first STV tourists arrive



PHOTO: Nation Thailand

In 2019, almost 40 million tourists arrived in Thailand. Yesterday, it was 41. As the Thais say, cha cha… Thailand is slowly, slowly, re-opening its borders after the Covid-19 pandemic forced a total shutdown in March. Yesterday, the Kingdom welcomed its first tourists in 7 months, with the arrival of 41 Chinese tourists from Shanghai. The group landed at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport on a chartered flight laid on by Spring Airlines, a low-cost Chinese carrier.

The visitors are here on the recently-launched Special Tourist Visa and upon touchdown, had to download a special app to track their movements while in Thailand. Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, also confirmed they will carry out 14 days’ quarantine, before they are free to travel around. The STV grants them a stay of up to 90 days and can be extended twice.

“Most of them planned to visit the beach and they already reserved hotel rooms.”

For anyone wishing to apply for the STV, your first port of call will be your local Thai Embassy and this website. Good luck!

Meanwhile, the southern island of Phuket had been expecting to welcome around 120 Chinese tourists on October 8, but that visit never materialised, with various reasons given for the delay. Some officials pointed to the island’s legendary vegetarian festival, which is currently underway, saying they did not want to deter domestic tourists who might be afraid of an increased risk of the virus from ‘tourists’. Others said it was simply because officials on the island wouldn’t have the manpower to deal with both events. And others still pointed to the small matter of nobody having applied to come.

The STV scheme appears to be finally up and running however, even if Phuket appears to have been left out of the picture for now. Yuthasak confirms another 147 Chinese tourists are scheduled to land at Suvarnabhumi on October 26, adding (very optimistically) that they’re expected to spend around 800,000 baht each while here.

Thai Airways has also confirmed it will bring 120 visitors from Shanghai to Bangkok on October 28. This group will consist of various categories, including tourists, repatriating Thais, and others arriving on ‘medical’ visas (people can apply to come to Thailand for various medical procedures).

In 2019, the Chinese made up the vast majority of foreign arrivals in the Kingdom, at around 10.99 million, just over a quarter of the total number of international tourists. Yuthasak is hopeful the return of international visitors is the beginning of the tourism sector’s recovery. It’s almost certain there’s a very long and winding road ahead.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post


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