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Tourism authority says Thailand must prepare for virus cases as part of re-opening

Maya Taylor

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Tourism authority says Thailand must prepare for virus cases as part of re-opening | The Thaiger
PHOTO: A deserted beach on Koh Samui - The Guardian
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The Tourism Authority of Thailand says the country must re-open its borders by the last quarter of the year and prepare to manage new Covid-19 cases as a result. TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn says the impact of new cases can be contained with careful risk management.

The reality of the situation is now sinking in as Thai officials are now openly admitting they can’t keep Thailand completely Covid-free indefinitely.

“We cannot avoid new cases, but the most important thing is to have risk management in place. If there are 5 cases among 5 million tourists, and we can contain those infections with stringent measures, that would be a good balance between public health and business survival.”

Thailand’s borders have been closed since March, and the fallout for the country’s tourism sector has been devastating. Businesses in normally thriving hot-spots like Pattaya, Koh Samui, and Phuket are shuttered, many for good, and thousands of workers are jobless. The fallout has been significant, and Yuthasak says it’s set to get worse the longer the borders remain shut.

“We have to bring in tourists by the last quarter as the domestic market alone cannot keep tourism workers employed. If we keep delaying their entry, around 2.5 million jobs out of 4 million will be at risk.”

Following the discovery of Thailand’s first locally transmitted Covid-19 case in over 3 months, the TAT was forced to downgrade its estimate of 80 million domestic trips in 2020 to 70 million. Domestic tourists are expected to bring in revenue of 418 billion baht, down more than 60% on 2019 figures. Revenue from international visitors is expected to be down 65% compared to 2019.

Yuthasak estimates that hotels need an occupancy rate of 30% to keep going. The rate nationwide is currently at 28%. He says an increase in domestic trips to 100 million in 2021, coupled with a plan to tentatively open to foreign tourists, could increase average hotel occupancy to 50%.

There have been many plans and ideas put forward for a careful re-opening to international tourists, with one example being the “Phuket Model” (that name may change). There is still no confirmation of any being given the green light and a definitive launch date. What’s certain is that any re-opening will involve copious amounts of paperwork, several Covid-19 tests, and 14 days’ quarantine.

The recent locally transmitted case in Bangkok, coupled with the saga of the Covid-positive Egyptian soldier in Rayong, have delayed any potential re-opening. Concerns expressed by some Phuket locals have also given officials pause for thought. Yuthasak says any re-opening must involve careful planning and proper communication with locals to ensure they’re on board.

The Bangkok Post reports that the TAT plans to propose a special long-stay visa, costing around 2,000 baht, that can be extended for a period of up to 270 days. In terms of short-term arrivals who cannot fulfil the 14 days’ quarantine, Yuthasak says the TAT is coordinating with the private sector on appropriate safety protocols. These would form part of a reciprocal pact with selected countries.

Meanwhile, the president of the Thai Hotels Association, Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, says Thailand cannot expect to have zero Covid-19 infections, and must learn to balance virus suppression with re-starting the tourism sector. She says government health officials must reassure the public that quarantine facilities beyond Bangkok will have the same strict standards as those in the capital.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    EdwardV

    September 10, 2020 at 11:10 am

    If Thailand wants to open in time to save the last quarter they better hurry up. There are a lot of decisions and work not only for Thailand but also for the tourists too. Have a hard time believing most of October isn’t already lost. Even so can’t see a lot of tourists deciding to come with a 14 day quarantine required. Don’t have a problem with Thailand requiring one, that’s their choice to make. But without sufficient numbers there will only be a limited benefit. Like most I only get 2-3 weeks of vacation at a time so a 14 day quarantine is out of the question. Sucks for me as I really miss Thailand.

  2. Avatar

    Jenevis

    September 10, 2020 at 11:29 am

    “If there are 5 cases among 5 million tourists, and…”

    Being a bit optimistic with the numbers here eh?

  3. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    September 10, 2020 at 12:08 pm

    Thailand will be throwing a party and nobody will come.

  4. Avatar

    Rinky Stingpiece

    September 10, 2020 at 1:14 pm

    It’s a relief that the penny is starting to drop, but the problem is that it has to drop a lot further… there are several factors out of the control of the Thais, such as for example Australia and NZ’s strict restrictions on returning tourists; in Europe, you can see how sudden changes in direction of policy in Mediterranean countries and policy changes in northern European countries prompted many tourists to suddenly return to avoid having to quarantine in their home country and not get paid for 2 weeks. Thailand’s immigration and quarantine rules and lack of flights makes it effectively impossible for the vast majority of tourists to consider travelling there. The only realistic way for Thailand to restore tourism is to create tourism zones where there is no quarantine, and to suspend the visa regulations, to make it easy for people to come and go. If they don’t it’s hard to see many tourists coming, it’s too much hassle and expense, and not much fun.

  5. Avatar

    JK

    September 10, 2020 at 4:51 pm

    Most of the people who were traveling to Thailand was because of the holiday. I want to see those who have limited vacation days, especially Europeans in winter time, that they will stay in 2 weeks in quarantine and then they can depart back home. And in designated hotel area – I can only imagine that most expensive resorts will be chosen. How this will help to the small hotel businesses and their employees?
    With the outlined plans I don’t see a bright future of Thailand tourism. I’m so sorry for all the people who will lose their jobs because of these decisions.
    And one more thing – why I need to present a Covid free test upon my arrival and then be quarantined for 14 days?
    I want to see those families with their 2 childs, they will pay around 400 Euros for Covid tests before traveling and then they will need to stay there in quarantine… what a dream holiday Thailand!

  6. Avatar

    Stephen Westrip

    September 14, 2020 at 4:52 am

    I don’t like the idea of a 14-day quarantine (I think 14 days is too long as the incubation period is shorter) but what I think is totally unnecessary and a rip-off is that every person needs their own room, even a husband and wife. Why? It seems like a way just to make money for the quarantine hotels. Surely a husband and wife that travelled together should stay together and be subject to the same testing regime. Obviously if one of them tested positive it would affect the others quarantine too but I am sure a husband/wife wouldn’t abandon the other anyway!!

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