Tourism operators seek cooperation
Tourism operators are urging state agencies to cooperate to avoid misunderstandings that could damage the industry.
Vichit Prakobgosol, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta), said all agencies responsible for the entry process have to ensure they are on the same page and work in harmony.
Alternative local state quarantine (ALSQ) facilities in Pattaya recently missed an opportunity to receive international guests because consulate offices abroad could not approve Certificates of Eligibility (COEs) for foreigners who chose facilities outside alternative state quarantine (ASQ) facilities in Bangkok.
Mr Vichit said that even though the issue was resolved later by the Tourism and Sports Ministry, which insisted tourists can choose ALSQ hotels in provinces, this kind of confusion needs to be avoided so tourists do not change their minds and head to other destinations.
In regard to the latest announcement from China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism on an extended ban on tour groups, he said tourists who apply for the special tourist visa (STV) have to complete their document process to receive the COE individually, so they are not considered group travellers.
Moreover, the two countries have not reopened borders for leisure tourists at this moment, so the association has no concern about the ban.
In the long run, Thailand's effectiveness in containing the outbreak and its long relationship with China will help support the opportunity to be chosen by the Chinese government to allow citizens to create a vacation plan, Mr Vichit said.
Chatri Archjananun, director-general of the Department of Consular Affairs, said tourists who already received COEs and travel on STVs can book any available flights to Thailand, whether repatriation flights or semi-commercial flights (flights for foreigners with COEs).
This allowance will enable individual travellers from countries with fewer STV applicants to travel more easily.
Mr Chatri said the department did not receive STV requests from any group to visit the country in November, while a few European tourists already received COEs but have yet to give an exact schedule.
Speaking at the briefing for tourism operators at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Mr Chatri said the ministry and the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand will introduce more semi-commercial flights for foreigners.
The new flight scheme is in a trial period from September until December with eight participating airlines, including Emirates, Qatar Airways and Cathay Pacific.
EVA Air and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines will start from Oct 25, while Thai Airways will start from Nov 6.
Mr Chatri cited three main pain points for people who would like to enter the country: the COE process, finding available flights and undergoing public health measures like quarantine.