Travel bubble scheme drawn up in 3 phases
1,000 tourists a day in 5 provinces to start
A travel bubble plan for leisure travellers has been drafted with three phases for opening, starting with a mere 1,000 tourists per day across five provinces.
Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the tourism and sports minister, said the ministry already asked the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta) and the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT) to design 6-7 day tour packages in five areas that are ready to join the pilot project, comprising Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, Krabi, Phuket and Pattaya.
The number of international tourists is capped at 1,000 per day nationwide in the first phase without a 14-day quarantine, and is expected to start in August. If any province's capability to handle swab tests for the coronavirus rises, the government will allow a higher number based on that volume.
The draft requires approval from the Public Health Ministry, including a list of countries with similar requirements that should be finalised within two weeks.
The draft calls for Thailand to offer a bubble scheme to countries that are low-risk, meaning free from the pandemic for 30 days, according to the World Health Organization.
Three countries fall into this category: China, Japan and Taiwan.
The Tourism and Sports Ministry plan to hear local opinions this week, after the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration assigned the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and TCT with conducting a survey of eight destinations: Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, Samui, Chiang Mai, Krabi, Chiang Rai and Hat Yai.
Mr Phiphat said after the government approved domestic tourism stimulus packages on Tuesday, he estimates the domestic tourism goal this year could be 120 million trips, up from 100 million trips, as the subsidy can trigger those with purchasing power to spend on tourism activities.
The number of international tourists is expected to be slow because of more requirements regarding health safety concerns.
Achieving 1.23 trillion baht in revenue will be a challenge because domestic tourists typically spend less than foreigners, said Mr Phiphat.
In the first phase of the travel bubble for the leisure market, Thailand has to start with tour groups because it is easier to manage routes, areas, and activities, said TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn.
He said within a month of the first phase reopening in designated destinations, if Thailand succeeds in handling services for inbound guests without triggering new infections, the second phase will see more destinations and a higher number of tourists allowed in.
The third phase is when the whole country can open to international tourists again, for both tour groups and individual travellers, by adopting the same screening standards from the first two phases.
Mr Yuthasak said TAT will also have to increase travel frequency among Thai tourists, from an average of 2.7 trips per year to three trips this year, to help tourism operators.