Atta preps scheme to enable short-haul visits
The Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta) plans to propose an inbound tourism plan without a 14-day quarantine for the short-haul market, but insists on a public hearing before anything is approved.
In addition to plenty of rules to ensure that no inbound travellers will cause infections in the country, the priority is tour operators must be ready to take responsibility for this scheme, said Vichit Prakobgosol, president of Atta.
"We have to take a first step within the fourth quarter this year or Thailand will only receive 10 million foreign tourists next year, losing another 1.5 trillion baht in tourism income," he said.
Even if a vaccine is developed, it will be too late to start next year."
More than 2.5 million workers in the tourism industry are at risk of losing their jobs if the country cannot open its borders to international tourists within this year, as only 10% of tourism workers can access soft loans from the rehabilitation package, said Mr Vichit.
According to Atta's draft proposal, tourists must come from cities that reported no new cases for at least 60 days.
They have to board flights with a health certificate issued no more than 72 hours before the flight and take another test upon arrival, and they will be escorted to a hotel immediately while awaiting the result.
The programme will only take place in provinces that agree to let tourists visit via this scheme.
Atta will limit the number of tourists in each group so that local communities are satisfied, said Mr Vichit.
The association already held a meeting with Sontaya Kunplome, mayor of Pattaya, and the city had a positive reaction towards Atta's idea.
Mr Vichit insisted there is demand from the short-haul market for such a scheme, particularly from China, which accounted for 10 million tourists last year and has more than 20 cities free from the virus.
Meanwhile, the government is pushing forward its plan for long-stay international visitors.
Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the tourism and sports minister, said the ministry will try its best to bring back long-stay tourists by Oct 1, though they have to undergo a 14-day quarantine.
Even though other countries in Asia such as Singapore have reduced the quarantine period to seven days, Thailand is not prepared to follow suit, he said.
Bangkok, Phuket, Buri Ram and Chon Buri are expected to be included in the first stage of welcoming tourists under the special tourist visa scheme, said Thapanee Kiatphaibool, deputy governor for tourism products and business at the Tourism Authority of Thailand.