TAT takes a gamble promoting Phuket Model
Thailand has to risk reopening borders to tourists with a pilot project in October acting as a decisive point for the inbound market in the upcoming high season, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
"There is a risk in the new tourism model, but if we don't open there is a bigger risk for the economy," said TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn.
If the first international tourists to Phuket complete their trips without local transmissions, Thailand will be ready to seize the long-stay market seeking a warmer climate during the winter months.
Thailand has an advantage in that its healthcare system has a glowing reputation.
Mr Yuthasak said tour agents in Europe have started to ask when they can sell tour packages to Thailand again.
Inbound flights during the early trial period will likely be chartered services only, as tourists are required to register with the Foreign Ministry and pass many procedures before entry.
Mr Yuthasak said each guest may spend a minimum of 30 days in Thailand to make a worthwhile trip, since 14 days must be spent in quarantine.
TAT staff on Friday inspected the supply side in Phuket, particularly the capacity of its healthcare services, and discussed conditions with hotels that are ready to be included in the sealed area for tourists.
The Tourism and Sports Ministry's Phuket Model will be the first location to try the new Safe and Sealed plan, whereby a group of alternative state quarantine (ASQ) hotels can jointly provide a restricted one-kilometre space for guests over two weeks.
There are strict measures, such as performing several swab tests before travel, on arrival, after the 14-day quarantine and before departing Phuket.
Mr Yuthasak said the target can be either Asian and European guests from six-hour-flight origins or nations that don't impose travel restrictions on their citizens.
Another priority for the TAT is to look for demand from international tourists and match them with their destination.
"Starting with the Phuket Model, this tourism stimulus plan will expand and reflect in GDP when attracting more international tourists during high-season months," Mr Yuthasak said.
The agency hopes the plan can help fix the quantity-versus-quality issue of tourist destinations by encouraging worn-down areas to rejuvenate.
As for domestic travel, if 5 million room nights under the stimulus campaign are not redeemed by the end of October, there's an opportunity to extend the deadline.