Special visa eyed to serve long-staying travellers
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) plans to submit to the cabinet a "special tourist visa" scheme for approval, targeting long-staying travellers with the lengthiest period extending to 270 days.
The new visa, with a 90-day length of stay and two extensions available for 90 days each, would be issued to those who agree to be kept in 14-day quarantine at a certified alternative state quarantine (ASQ) hotel or villa, according to the TAT.
The applicant must show evidence of a booking payment, strictly follow screening measures and meet the same requirements as previous groups that were allowed to enter, such as Covid-free certificate, insurance and undergoing several tests.
"If Thailand cannot open to long-haul tourists by this winter, we have to wait until next Easter or the next winter, which means hotels that depend largely on international guests will not have guests for two consecutive years," said TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn.
Tourism operators might be forced to offload the cost burden by laying off many workers.
Mr Yuthasak said the trial programme of partially reopening will not be limited to Phuket; the model can be applied to any province that follows safety protocols and receives a public consensus from locals.
Phuket and Koh Samui, both heavily reliant on the international market, are the first potential areas.
Thapanee Kiatphaibool, deputy governor for tourism products and business at the TAT, said the new type of visa will not have an age limit of 50 years and up like the existing retirement visa.
Those who want to visit will have to board chartered flights. The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration suggests a limit of 100 passengers per flight to allow space for physical distancing.
The centre has to screen and approve the list of prospective arrivals before they can arrange a trip to Thailand.
Mr Yuthasak held out the possibility that Phuket could have chartered flights arriving during winter 2020-21, consisting of 459,700 passengers from Russia, 27,000 from Sweden and 15,600 from Britain, according to travel agents' estimates.