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Tourism officials push to add Bangkok to “sandbox” travel scheme

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Tourism officials push to add Bangkok to “sandbox” travel scheme | Thaiger
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Tourism officials are calling for Bangkok to be included in the new “sandbox” travel scheme which will allow foreign visitors who are vaccinated against Covid-19 to travel to specific tourist destinations that have reached herd immunity. Phuket and Koh Samui are set to reopen under the model in July. Tourism officials are now pushing for Bangkok to reopen under the scheme in October.

Bangkok is the main transit hub for international arrivals in Thailand. 90% of Pattaya’s foreign visitors arrive from Bangkok, according to Tourism Council of Thailand vice president Vichit Prakobgosol. Adding Bangkok to the sandbox travel scheme could draw in 3 million visitors and help Thailand reach the goal of 6.5 million foreign tourists by the end of the year.

Phuket was the first tourist location to develop plans for a sandbox that would allow tourists to enter there before the full border reopening. The TCT estimates 2 million tourists will visit and bring 105 billion baht of money into the economy. The Phuket Tourist Association reports vaccination is increasing to 10,000 to 12,000 jabs a day, and the Phuket airport reached 10,000 arrivals per day, up from 2,000 just months ago. Prior to Covid-19, Phuket saw arrivals from 60,000 to 100,000 people a day.

Following Phuket’s lead, 5 other provinces recently announced sandbox schemes: Koh Samui, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, Krabi, and Phang Nga. These areas are predicted to bring at least another million travellers and 50 billion baht in revenue to Thailand’s tourist economy. The TCT hopes the add Bangkok to this group to run up tourism numbers.

To prepare for foreign tourists, TCT president Chamnan Srisawat says the government needs to announce bilateral agreement for travel bubbles between nearby low-risk nations. Creating vaccine certificates right away will give businesses an idea of tourist volume, he says.

The tourism industry has been struggling for the past year due to the lack of international arrivals. Unemployment in the tourism industry has spiked, rising from 411,840 to 1.45 million.

The tourism index is at the second-lowest it’s been since the pandemic began, behind the second quarter of 2020 when lockdowns were first put in place. The index stands at 36 now, dropping from 62 in the previous quarter. Anything under 100 signals low confidence in tourism.

To help boost domestic tourism, the government has relaxed restrictions for Songkran hoping the April holiday will bring an estimated 3.2 million domestic trips and 12 billion baht of tourism spending.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Issan John

    Tuesday, March 30, 2021 at 2:03 pm

    So Bangkok, with a population of 11 million, wants its share of the vaccines … and Pattya and Chiang Mai and Nakhon Nowhere …

    … just as well there are plenty of vaccines to go around … 😢

    Maybe the litterbox solution will be next 😕

    … or the thunderbox for Pattaya 😯

  2. Avatar

    Jason

    Tuesday, March 30, 2021 at 2:51 pm

    I have to comment that putting Bangkok into the mix would be a grave mistake. Phuket is an island. It’s border can easily be controlled. It has an airport that can accomodate larger aircraft and has been completely refurbished in the last few years. I also think that any international tourists should fly directly into Phuket to avoid transit through Bangkok. The flights that represent the least risk are direct flights from low risk countries ie without stopovers. I think if international tourism begins in this way, it will be sustainable. The last thing anyone wants is a “free for all” that will end in disaster.

  3. Avatar

    Jayce

    Tuesday, March 30, 2021 at 3:27 pm

    There is no sandboxing Bkk… might as well just open borders fully to vaccinated people at that point.

  4. Avatar

    Ben

    Tuesday, March 30, 2021 at 5:00 pm

    The tourism folks are sensing an opening and so why not push it to the limit. Better be careful and not blow your own legs off trying to do something premature.

    They’d better figure out Phuket first before trying to open up Bangkok, or Samui or anywhere else. They don’t have enough doses to inoculate 70% of all these areas.

    What they absolutely can’t have is tens or hundreds of thousands of cases in Bangkok. An it wouldn’t take much to do that given how everyone is on top of each other. Then they would have to shut down the city until they got enough people inoculated. In the meantime it would economically devastate business like restaurants, bars, spas, etc. similar to Phuket.

  5. Avatar

    Issan John

    Tuesday, March 30, 2021 at 7:22 pm

    “They’d better figure out Phuket first before trying to open up Bangkok, or Samui or anywhere else”

    Samui should obviously have been first, Ben, and it could have been up and running, 2nd vaccinations all done, with the first tourists arriving next month.

    If everything had gone to plan, then Phuket two or three months later, then the rest two or three months after that.

    If thing went wrong, no big problem.

    But no, the Phuket owners whinged too much.

    Now it’s just a question of which set-back happens first.

  6. Avatar

    James R

    Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at 12:14 am

    So in order to meet the sandbox criteria 70% of people need to be vaccinated in Bangkok so 70% x 2(vaccines) x 11,000,000 people = 15.4 million jabs, not much chance of that happening for a year or two.

    But why do they need the inoculation? Thailand has been open with no restrictions for most of the last year, yet no one is catching the virus unlike the population of other countries who do not follow a lock-down system, it must be that magic blood again.

    Thailand is great as the news is like reading a daily fairy story, but is also great for long holidays.

  7. Avatar

    Issan John

    Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at 8:12 am

    “Thailand has been open with no restrictions for most of the last year,”

    Maybe the “Thailand” on your planet, but not this one! 😂

  8. Avatar

    James R

    Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at 8:03 pm

    Issan John

    When did shops open again, last year.

    Bars, last year.

    Restaurants, last year.

    Working from home, never.

    Everything has been open for at least six months yet no rise is cases as happens in other countries once they open up.

    Hence magic blood, or false reporting.

    I suspect the latter.

  9. Avatar

    Issan John

    Thursday, April 1, 2021 at 12:28 am

    “Everything has been open for at least six months yet no rise is cases as happens in other countries once they open up.”

    “Everything”?

    Borders, tourism and quarantine?

    Really?

  10. Avatar

    James R

    Friday, April 2, 2021 at 3:25 pm

    Issan

    The virus is spread domestically, the millions of people have not been restricted in Thailand, they mill about in the bars and restaurants and shopping centres and yet no exponential growth in cases as happens in many counties in the world where there is no local lock down.

    You keep on mentioning NZ and Australia, yes true the numbers were low but only because they had strict lock down for weeks on end.

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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10 years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

Chiang Mai

Tourism officials slash Songkran travel expectations by half

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Tourism officials slash Songkran travel expectations by half | Thaiger

The TAT, ever the optimists regarding anything tourism related, even domestic tourism, predict that the Bangkok clusters that have emerged in the week before the Songkran break could reduce traffic and spending by up to half.

Today the CCSA is reporting 789 new infections and one additional death. 522 were local infections, mostly walk-ins to Bangkok hospitals, 259 were discovered through track and tracing. The remaining 8 were found in quarantine from overseas arrivals. In Phuket, another 17 cases have been reported today, taking the island’s week total to 43.

Tourism officials slash Songkran travel expectations by half | News by ThaigerGRAPH: Worldometer figures for Thailand, up to April 9

A 68 year old man from Nakhon Pathom province died on April 4 but wasn’t reported until today. The CCSA report that he died from Covid and “complications”. 33 other former patients have recovered and been discharged.

Last week the TAT estimated 3.2 million domestic trips would circulate 12 billion baht for the Thai economy. But the Tourism Authority has now slashed their estimates by half after hotels, airlines and bus companies reported mass cancellations in the last few days. Other provinces are reporting less than 20% cancellations. Although this weekend will see a lot of travel, Songkran doesn’t formally start until next Tuesday and the TAT expect there could be additional fallout as travellers decide to have a staycation for Songkran instead heading home.

Bangkok Post reports that 70% of travellers to Prachuap Khiri Khan and Hua Hin have already cancelled hotel bookings. Similar cancellations have been reported in Pattaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai. Many other provinces, particularly in the north east and north, are also enforcing quarantine on arrivals or additional paperwork to try and protect their provinces from any of the Bangkok clusters.

8 north eastern provinces rare now requiring 10 or 14 day quarantine periods for anyone arriving from areas where new clusters have been reported. Chiang Mai provincial officials say that tourists from Samut Prakan, Nakhon Pathom, Bangkok, Pathum Thani and Nonthaburi – basically Bangkok and surrounding provinces – must complete a 14 day mandatory quarantine or conduct a test for Covid when they arrive.

The reality is that the travel and quarantine changes are outstripping the ability to communicate them all. Anyone crossing into other provinces in the next few day, especially if you’re travelling from Bangkok and surrounding provincial ‘red zones’ can expect some additional paperwork or a Covid test. Or even quarantine.

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Protests

Attendance on the wane for Thai democracy protests

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Attendance on the wane for Thai democracy protests | Thaiger
PHOTO: Demonstration attendance has been falling in the face of Covid-19, coups and crackdowns.

While protesters against the Thai government are continuing as they have for endless months, attendance is lessening in the face of crackdowns, coups and Covid-19. The throngs of 10,000 plus protesters, mostly energetic youth, that waved The Hunger Games 3 finger salute and demanded change in Thailand last summer have thinned to a few thousand or less these days.

The government isn’t in the clear yet though, as the protester’s calls to replace the current government, lessen the power of the Thai monarchy, and draw up a new constitution are still popular ideas. But a number of factors are causing protester size and vigour to wane.

The second wave of Covid in December quickly curbed the daily demonstrations for fear of spreading the virus. After that, the coup in Myanmar on February 1 has brought massive protests with international attention shifting to the growing humanitarian crisis just across the border. On top of the pandemic and the Burmese coup, the Thai government has taken a much more hardline approach to protesters in recent months.

Police began fighting back against mass demonstrations, dispersing crowds with water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets. And after 2 years of leniency, the government has begun prosecuting people under the strict lèse-majesté laws, where offending the monarchy can carry harsh punishment including a jail sentence of up to 15 years.

Anon Nampa, a human-rights lawyer, and Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, a student activist, have already been arrested under this law and held without bail. Arrests like these have been demoralising for the pro-democracy movement, and have scared away a lot of Thai protesters. Many have shifted focus to more immediate efforts to demand the release of the detained protest leaders.

Even with the crowds shrinking, the protests have already brought about change, bringing once unspeakable conversations into the national conversation, and keeping pressure on Thailand’s leaders. Opposition is growing, with efforts to push no-confidence votes and amendments to the constitution being constantly proposed and advocated.

SOURCE: The Economist

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

VIP clubs may be spreading Covid-19 from rich to poor

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VIP clubs may be spreading Covid-19 from rich to poor | Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook - Krystal Bar in Thong Lor was the site of a Covid-19 Outbreak

A third Covid-19 wave surging through Thailand is spreading through entertainment centres, including high-end VIP clubs rumoured to be popular with elite government officials. 559 Covid-19 infections and 1 death were reported today and the outbreak, which began in bars and clubs in the Thong Lor area of Bangkok among other nightlife hotspots, is surging, reaching 20 provinces throughout Thailand. Outbreaks in Chon Buri, Pattaya, and Phuket have also been linked directly to evening entertainment venues, such as the dance music festival in Phuket last weekend that resulted in 10 infections. Now, evidence is emerging that the wave is spreading through Bangkok’s wealthy elite and government officials.

In Phuket, where 70% vaccination of residents has been a primary focus in order to re-open to desperately needed tourism, the new outbreak has brought bar closures and new restrictions. And it looks like Songkran celebrations across the country will be muted, if not cancelled.

With nightlife and hospitality workers being disproportionately affected by the third wave of Covid-19, many are airing their frustrations with the VIP elite class contributing to the outbreak, including a trending hashtag #CovidThonglor. Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob was one of the first cabinet members to test positive for Covid-19, amid rumours that he had recently attended or been in proximity with someone who attended Krystal Club, an upscale entertainment business. Though he denies being there, the club is allegedly so popular among politicians and officials that it is often referred to by the nickname “Government House 2”. Nearly a third of cabinet ministers are now self-isolating for fear of Covid-19 exposure.

With 200,000 baht minimum spending limits, it’s a high-society hotspot that may be spreading Covid-19 from the rich VIP customers to the poor staff and everyone they come in contact with. Calls for government officials and other elites who attended VIP clubs like this to disclose their potentially embarrassing timelines have so far been mostly unheeded.

In Bangkok, hospitals and private medical facilities have been warning of a shortage of testing kits and Covid-ready hospital beds. Field hospitals have been erected to prepare as the outbreak expands with surging cases. Experts think the new outbreak may be contained in a month or two, but fear in Bangkok it may take much longer to recover.

SOURCE: SCMP

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