There is little hope of attracting international arrivals during the first quarter of next year as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread in Thailand, Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn says.
Mr Phiphat said on Wednesday there is no need for the country to tighten travel restrictions on foreign passengers from the UK or other countries because there's no demand from tourists to visit Thailand at this time.
The bid to lure international travellers by launching Special Tourist Visas (STVs) to attract long-stay tourists received a lukewarm feedback.
"The ministry had discussed [the issue] with embassies in Thailand, and they all say that the winter season is the greatest test for the country's public health system to control the virus," Mr Phiphat said.
He said Thailand expects to face a long period of "drought" in the international tourism market and that those who do travel here will be foreigners who have special purposes, not for tourism.
He said tourism may restart after international flights return to normal which could occur in April, driven by the Songkran festival.
If Thailand and China are ready to engage in more discussions on "travel bubbles" when winter ends, there's a higher possibility of attracting more travellers during summer next year, he said.
Mr Phiphat, who is from Bhumjaithai -- the same political party as Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul -- added that the government approved a 45-billion-baht budget for the Public Health Ministry to battle Covid-19.
Even though many countries have received vaccines and started to inoculate their residents, he said Thailand, which is scheduled to have its first jabs by the middle of next year, won't rush down the same path.
"The Public Health Ministry is quite serious about the decision to wait and see the side effects thoroughly. We don't have to be a Covid vaccine guinea pig," Mr Phiphat said. He also said Thailand will get sufficient vaccine doses for everyone as the government has funds prepared.
According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the country is looking to welcome more than 10 million international arrivals next year, generating 500 billion baht for the economy.
In terms of the domestic market, after Thailand was hit by a recurrence of the pandemic and saw local tourists put their travel plans on hold during the festive season, the ministry arranged a meeting with the Thai Hotels Association on Wednesday.
He said they reached an agreement to allow tourists to postpone hotel bookings via a government-backed subsidy campaign. "Hotels agreed to let local travellers reschedule their reservations in the campaign to six months and one year," Mr Phiphat said.