Suvarnabhumi International Airport has seen a significant increase in international travellers since Thailand scrapped its pre-travel PCR test requirement last Friday. Well that’s the general narrative that’s been published in some media, although the published numbers don’t stand up to close scrutiny.
Bangkok’s aviation hub saw an average of more than 11,600 daily arrivals from abroad touch down in the Big Mango from April 1-4, the Bangkok Post reported (as well as the Thai Government’s English media, Thai PBS World).
Once PCR tests were lifted for those entering the country via the Test & Go and Sandbox schemes, the airport saw more than a 65% jump in travellers from the 7,000 daily arrivals in March. Now that figure, averaging March arrivals and the first 4 days of April, has nearly doubled, giving the impression that Thailand could be on the brink of a tourism rebound.
But looking at the apparent “flood” of travellers back into the country another way, Suvarnabhumi has served an average of 141 international flights each day for the first 4 days of April, compared to an average of 137 flights per day in March, a mere 3% increase. So it appears that the planes in the first 4 days of April had a LOT fewer empty seats than the average of the March arrivals.
It should also be noted that the largest contingent of arrivals over the past few months has been mostly returning Thais, along with expats, businesspeople and, of course, tourists.
As travel restrictions relax, more flights will land at Suvarnabhumi airport to accommodate the increasing number of passengers who want to travel to Thailand relatively hassle-free. Or at least that’s what tourism authorities hope will happen.
As good as axing the pre-arrival Covid test may sound in theory, in practice, there might be little cause for praise. Travellers to Thailand will still find themselves hard-pressed to get on a plane without a negative PCR test, regardless of whether it’s needed to enter Thailand under the Thailand Pass, or not. Meanwhile, reportedly faster PCR tests on arrival do not eliminate the pre-departure requirement of booking an SHA Extra+ hotel to apply for the required Thailand Pass. And good luck getting a refund, even if you find out you don’t need to spend the night there.
Thailand hoteliers are likewise not appeased. They want a more thorough removal of entry restrictions, in line with countries like Malaysia, Cambodia and Singapore. While the removal of the pre-arrival PCR test may have resulted in modest increase in the number of overseas arrivals, it reality, it’s only made Thailand’s depressed travel industry a little less worse, according to president of the Thai Hotels Association, Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi…
“After the lifting of the pre-arrival test, we are seeing a climb in international arrivals, but it is a very slow climb. The numbers are still very small and not nearly enough for a full recovery. To get a larger flow of incoming visitors, the government must do away with all restrictions: the RT-PCR test on arrival, Covid insurance requirements, and also the Thailand Pass.”
Meanwhile, the Tourism Authority of Thailand plans to attract more than 1 million tourists from neighbouring nations in Southeast Asia by the end of the year. Their secret weapon? Travel packages.
SOURCE: Bangkok Post
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