TCT wants restrictions massaged

TCT wants restrictions massaged

Agency pins hopes on travel bubbles

Passengers and crew walk through a health screening with a thermal scanner at Suvarnabhumi airport. International arrivals dropped by 60% during January to May year-on-year. (Photo by Varuth Hirunyatheb)
Passengers and crew walk through a health screening with a thermal scanner at Suvarnabhumi airport. International arrivals dropped by 60% during January to May year-on-year. (Photo by Varuth Hirunyatheb)

With zero new tourist arrivals for the past two months, a first for the Thai tourism industry, the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT) is putting pressure on the government to make June the last month of international travel restrictions, negotiating for travel bubbles with nations that have low levels of Covid-19 outbreak.

The Tourism and Sports Ministry released statistics for the first five months, with the emergency decree and inbound flight ban hurting April and May figures.

The number of international tourists from January to May dropped by 60% year-on-year to 6.69 million, or 10 million tourists shy of the same period last year. International tourism revenue figures plunged 59.6% to 332 billion baht.

Chairat Trirattanajarasporn, president of the TCT, said operators are in desperate need of foreign tourists.

"Most of us can hold on until the end of June, but many will stop paying off debts and bills when there is no income left," he said.

Travel bubbles between countries are essential tools that should be signed as soon as possible for foreign business travellers to begin their trips in July, said Mr Chairat.

Group tours and independent travellers expected to visit in September will need more time to prepare because of the visa process, he said.

Mr Chairat said the government should provide a tracking application to international tourists while travelling in Thailand to keep tabs on people who have been in the same areas as Covid-19 patients.

However, Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said even if travel bubbles between countries are created, Thailand is unlikely to welcome any international tourists in July. The country cannot hope for an influx of visitors this year, he said.

"In July, the door to our country will open only to two groups of foreign citizens: businessmen with an invitation letter from partner companies in Thailand, and patients holding doctor appointments in Thai hospitals," said Mr Phiphat.

He said the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) assigned five offices in China to consider negotiating travel bubble regulations with selected cities first.

Without a 14-day quarantine, the ministry wants to be sure other effective screening measures are prepared, said Mr Phiphat.

He suggested Thailand require tourists show heath certificates and Covid-19 insurance before entering the country, and the government will provide Covid-19 tests at their accommodation, which should issue a result between 3-4 hours.

"In the first phase of bringing in international tourists, the priority target is guests who can afford to stay longer than 14 days in the country," he said.

Under this idea, tourists won't require two weeks self-isolation, but have to comply with the rule to stay in a restricted destination, and allow state agencies to track their whereabouts by using the application.

Meanwhile, domestic tourism in May showed a glimpse of hope as the second phase of the lockdown relaxation on May 17 prompted local travellers to make 570,000 trips, down by 97% but an improvement from April when there were only 130,000 trips, down 99.3% year-on-year.

The key factor was fewer restrictions with inter-provincial connections allowed. Four airlines restarted 84 domestic routes combined, while many provinces allowed tourism sites to reopen.

During the first five months, domestic trips totalled 40.2 million, down 58.2%, as revenue fell 57.9% to 191 billion baht.

At least 1 million domestic trips are expected during June as the situation has improved significantly.

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