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Thailand hopes to welcome long-stay visitors escaping winter in Europe

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

The Thai government is understood to be finalising a plan to open the borders to long-stay visitors escaping the European winter, aka. snowbirds. With borders closed to to most international arrivals, the country’s tourism sector is devastated and in desperate need of a kick-start. Boon Vanasin, from Thonburi Healthcare Group, says officials are considering the introduction of long-stay visas, enabling foreigners to stay in the Kingdom for up to 9 months.

Of course Mr. Boon has a vested interest in prying those borders open as his Thonburi Healthcare Group, in the past hosting foreign medical tourists as a majority of its business, has been very quiet since the closure of the borders last April.

But, as usual, there’s no escaping the mandatory quarantine requirements. All arrivals will still have to spend 14 days in a quarantine facility in Phuket (or other locations if the “Phuket Model” is expanded beyond the southern island) and undergo several Covid-19 tests. Should they wish to travel beyond Phuket, an additional 7 days’ quarantine will be required. If they test negative after 21 days’ quarantine, they are free to travel around Thailand. Government spokeswoman Traisulee Traisoranakul confirmed the “Phuket Model” last week, adding that the finer details are still being worked on and nothing has been confirmed.

But not all Phuketians are behind the “Phuket Model”. Read about that HERE.

For those working in the tourism sector, this re-opening could be a much-needed start. Compared to many other countries, Thailand appears to have successfully contained Covid-19. However, its economy and tourism industry are just as decimated as everywhere else with some locations – like Phuket, Koh Samui and Pattaya – almost totally reliant on the tourist trade. The government keeps saying they remain very wary of opening up to tourists, particularly as places that have already done so, such as Aruba, in the Caribbean, Maldives and Spain, had new spikes in cases after lifting the gates for tourists.

If the latest plan goes ahead however, Thailand will be open for European visitors arriving on dedicated charter flights from places like Germany and Sweden. Many Europeans have long undertaken an annual pilgrimage to the sun, staying in the Kingdom for several months at a time. This year however, they’ll have the added quarantine, testing requirements and paperwork to keep them busy.

The Thonburi Health Group says it plans to partner with hotels to provide both quarantine facilities and long-stay accommodation options. Thai Airways has already announced it will operate a number of direct flights to Phuket from countries such as Germany, Denmark, and the UK. They are planned to start in November but Thai Airways’ woes of restructure and bankruptcy proceedings put a lot of distance between its best intentions and actually getting planes back in the air.

The president of the Phuket Tourist Association, Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, says that while the province does need help, there’s a delicate balance to be struck between re-opening and controlling the virus.

“Phuket’s economy needs foreign demand to bounce back but we also have to balance infection risks and the economy.”

PM Prayut Chan-o-cha agrees, saying the plan to allow foreign visitors to return will be carefully tested first, adding that he understands the need to revive international tourism.

“We have to do something so that the situation doesn’t get worse with businesses closing down and people losing jobs.”

SOURCE: Bloomberg News

 

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19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Kluessendorf

    Monday, August 31, 2020 at 2:58 pm

    Der europäische Urlauber wird in der Regel den einfachsten- und stressfreiesten Weg für die Buchung seiner Reise beschreiten. Dieser Weg führt ihn vermutlich in das Reisebüro seiner Wahl, das ihn bei der Auswahl des Reisezieles unterstützt, preisliche Angebote macht und anschließend alle weiteren Tätigkeiten, wie z.B. die Flug- und Hotelbuchung übernimmt.Da Thailand derzeit international für Touristen nicht erreichbar ist wird sich im Reisebüro kein Angebot hierzu finden.Der Kunde wird sich daher nach Alternativen erkundigen und anschließend seinen Urlaub dort verbringen. Solange also Thailand keinen freien touristischen Flugverkehr mit freier Wahl der Fluggesellschaft und Hotelunterbringung ohne Quarantäne duldet ist mit Urlaubern in nennenswerter Zahl nicht zu rechnen.

  2. Avatar

    Kenneth Brewster

    Monday, August 31, 2020 at 3:03 pm

    I would be interested to know what visa such travelers will require and will it be issued upon arrival or have to be obtained in advance in the persons home country.

  3. Avatar

    Bobby M

    Monday, August 31, 2020 at 3:23 pm

    Dream on – there are plenty of places we can go without all the hoops to jump through or even the visa’s to pay for. You are now causing your economy everlasting damage.

    Open – Re-start your economy quickly, using the track and trace system and home/location quarantine, on evidence of infections and without all the visa fuss and additional costs.

    Or

    Don’t open and go bankrupt.

    “Up to you”

    The world is getting tired of your behaviour, reducing the likelihood of any significant future investment daily, as you cannot be trusted to provide a return on such an investment. Thailand was a good place to invest but you are showing us all your inabilities.

    • Avatar

      Eddie

      Monday, August 31, 2020 at 3:55 pm

      Agreed. Open or close. Be the first to win all the chips or keep dreaming and lose the whole game. Singapore is on the track of opening. Thais should withdraw their ego, and accept the fact that Thailand is not as important as they think.

    • Avatar

      Jake

      Monday, August 31, 2020 at 4:40 pm

      Good comment, Bobby

  4. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Monday, August 31, 2020 at 4:01 pm

    I see a real danger with these welcome tourist deals.
    The tourist arrives, fully insured, and has to have a 14 day quarantine.
    Then here comes the scam. The hospital falsely finds the tourist has the virus.
    They take the healthy tourist to hospital, and loot the tourist’s insurance of $800 a day, for many days.
    I doubt the tourist can have a second opinion, and even if they did have one, the second doctor might work together with the first doctor.
    What a nasty suspicious mind I have, but it has developed from visiting Thailand since 1988.
    And living most of the last six years there.

    • Avatar

      Andrew

      Monday, August 31, 2020 at 11:28 pm

      Exactly. I was thinking of this when Cambodia introduced ‘user pays’ system. You arrived at PP airport. They take that swab of everyone on the plane and sent to Pasteur Institute for testing. Now, Interesting Part/Theory. If nobody is positive they make just $200-300 out of every person. Silly. So Pasteur I. issue (even just one) ‘certificate’ that Passenger X has the virus. Nobody can check if true or not. You can’t dispute it in any way. You and everyone else on that plane must accept it. FULL STOP. So, the sick person goes to hospital, where he will paying $$ hundreds/day for treatment (maybe just for paracetamol) and all the rest passengers (100 or 200) taken to quarantine, each of them pays $1000+ (in case of Thailand MUCH more) and the government gets hundreds of thousands of $$ per…plane! You may say ‘aahh I don’t think they can do that’. Well, according to Corruption Perception Index, Cambodia is #161 out of 180 on the list of Corrupt Countries in 2020.
      Agree with you it may happen exactly the same in Thailand. After all this country knows what is… corruption. 100,000-200,000 baht for 2 weeks hotel-prison? Just crazy!!!

  5. Avatar

    pierre noel

    Monday, August 31, 2020 at 4:02 pm

    make it easy to stay here 6 months,many peoples go mexico because it is easy and beautiful weather to,multy entry visa here are pain in the ass,immigration and visa run and it’it is expensive at the end

    • Avatar

      Perceville Smithers

      Monday, August 31, 2020 at 11:36 pm

      Mexico is not an option because of the safety factor and there’s always a “middle man. ” Not relaxing like Thailand is.

  6. Avatar

    Pedro

    Monday, August 31, 2020 at 4:10 pm

    I was one of those potential long term visitors, even considering taking up a retirement visa and living in Thailand as an expat as I love the country and its people. Now, with all the hoops I must jump through, masses of paperwork, over expensive long term visas, 3 monthly reporting, insurance costs, increasing corruption within the police (and I am a retired Police Officer), scammers, cheating taxi drivers, dictatorial Government telling me which places I may visit, where I must stay and pay a lot for the privilege, other general travel restrictions, and many Thai’s who now openly do not want foreigners and make us unwelcome and blame westerners for Covid (except it came from China but the Chinese are still very welcome), forget it. There are many more good places in the world which are more welcoming where I can spend my retirement pot, with a quarter of the fuss.

    • Avatar

      Maverick

      Monday, August 31, 2020 at 6:45 pm

      With that attitude Thailand will not miss you – try North Korea – good luck

  7. Avatar

    Luigi

    Monday, August 31, 2020 at 4:10 pm

    while the doctor studies the patient dies

  8. Avatar

    derpod

    Monday, August 31, 2020 at 5:34 pm

    Why do we keep seeing the SAME article posted over and over and over again for the past week? This is OLD news with no new information or details whatsoever.

    Why write an article about something that you’ve already written about again and again?

    Give us new information or don’t give us anything at all. It’s so frustrating to keep hearing the same old “nothing new” again and again and again …

  9. Avatar

    Edy F.

    Monday, August 31, 2020 at 6:31 pm

    Nobody will come in these conditions. They must stop with quarantine for nothing and false tests if they want somebody to come here. The tests detect only false positive, our own genetic material, not covid19. It’s a big hoax !

  10. Avatar

    EdwardV

    Monday, August 31, 2020 at 10:55 pm

    Clearly if Thailand wants snowbirds, they must plan to be a bit lenient on the requirement tourist only come from counties without a virus case in the last 30 days. Even so, out of expats seeing this as the quickest way back into the country, I can’t see Thailand getting a lot of snowbird takers. Most of those type of tourists are not looking for expensive, at least not enough of them to make this scheme work in anything but the smallest level. If I had months to stay I might think about it, but I don’t so it’s getting time to look for a winter vacation spot somewhere else. Sucks since I love Thailand so much. Hopefully they open up sometime next year, I miss Thailand.

  11. Avatar

    Nipral

    Tuesday, September 1, 2020 at 10:25 am

    Sadly we have to face it : Thailand is dead for international tourists over the next 10 years at least. People there will keep starving and dying. Covid has nothing to do with this situation. Only the moronic government decisions -or lack of decisions- to blame.
    There are many countries westerners will happily enjoy in the coming months and over the years to come.
    So long Thailand !

  12. Avatar

    david jones

    Tuesday, September 1, 2020 at 7:58 pm

    I agree 100% thailand is suffering and they need the tourists or farlang as they call, us money number 1. but i remember when they kept all those people on a cruise ship all locked in together if you d,ont have covid at the start you probably will at after 14 days if they keep you all in one hotel in phuket . knowing the thai system it,s going to be a shambles . i wish them well but for me phuket is or was very expensive especially the thai taxi tuk tuk 200 thai baht for a 200 meter ride .this is no news at all 14 days isolation then one more week in phuket before anywhere else plus the insurance hotel costs

  13. Avatar

    Andrew

    Tuesday, September 1, 2020 at 8:42 pm

    Exactly Toby Andrews. I was thinking of this when Cambodia introduced ‘user pays’ system. You arrived at PP airport. They take that swab of everyone on the plane and sent to Pasteur Institute for testing. Now, Interesting Part/Theory. If nobody is positive they make just $200-300 out of every person. Silly. So Pasteur I. issue (even just one) ‘certificate’ that Passenger X has the virus. Nobody can check if true or not. You can’t dispute it in any way. You and everyone else on that plane must accept it. FULL STOP. So, the sick person goes to hospital, where he will paying $$ hundreds/day for treatment (maybe just for paracetamol) and all the rest passengers (100 or 200) taken to quarantine, each of them pays $1000+ (in case of Thailand MUCH more) and the government gets hundreds of thousands of $$ per…plane! You may say ‘aahh I don’t think they can do that’. Well, according to Corruption Perception Index, Cambodia is #161 out of 180 on the list of Corrupt Countries in 2020.
    Agree with you it may happen exactly the same in Thailand. After all this country knows what is… corruption. 100,000-200,000 baht for 2 weeks hotel-prison? Just crazy!!!

  14. Avatar

    Kurt Gruen

    Thursday, September 3, 2020 at 4:41 am

    First of all, why just look at European visitors? British Columbia, Canada for example, has had very low Covid 19 rates and have the situation well under control. Canadians have a lot of spending money and have good reason to escape the cold for the winter.
    Secondly. I would respectfully suggest, that the Thai Government adapt a similar “self-quarantine model, that is being used in British Columbia. Here, foreigners or Canadians, arriving in Canada, must have a written, acceptable self-isolation plan, which usually means traveling to one’s destination as quickly as possible, then self-isolating there for two weeks. If arrivals at the Vancouver Airport show Covid symptoms, they get put into Government Isolation.
    This is much more acceptable than being locked into a hotel room and having to pay for the mandatory quarantine.
    Expats, not just tourists, would most likely agree to a two week self quarantine at their desired destination, as long as they can travel afterwards.
    Ourselves, me and my Thai wife, own a home and property, North of Chiang Mai City. We would come back immediately, if we could fly to the airport, jump into a taxi to Chiang Dao, where we live and get dropped off at our home. We could have a perfect self isolation plan in place, with no visitors for the first two weeks and our food being dropped off at the door every day.
    This is just one example on how it could work.
    Locking expats up in a Quarantine hotel in Bangkok for two weeks, before being able to carry on, at a hefty price tag, is not acceptable to most expats.
    As for tourists, if I was a tourist, I would want a choice of destinations and if I was forced to isolate, I would want access to the pool, ocean, bar, restaurant, etc., if I had my negative Covid test and no symptoms.
    One of the biggest problem is, that most tourists only have two or three weeks holidays and will not want to spend it locked in one location only to return home afterwards to be in self quarantine for another 14 days.
    You cannot have it both ways. Either open up tourism and get the economy going, or stay shut and bankrupt millions of people in Thailand.
    To me, putting food on the table is more important than the remote chance of catching this bad Flu Virus. After all, the chances of dying from Covid 19 are very small.
    So to sum it up, I respectfully suggest that the Thai Government open up and let Expats, who spend three months or more in Thailand, self isolate at their location of choice. As for tourism, either open it up or keep it shut. Mandatory three weeks of being stuck in certain areas of one resort, before being able to travel around Thailand, will not work for most of the tourists, who only get a few weeks holidays.
    It is my hope, that my comments will reach someone in the Government, who makes these tough decisions.
    Kurt Gruen
    (A healthy Canadian, waiting to return home to Thailand for the Winter)

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