Atta seeks vaccinated arrivals

Atta seeks vaccinated arrivals

Tourists arrive at Suvarnabhumi airport. Thai operators support the idea of forgoing quarantine for those vaccinated against Covid-19. Pornprom Satrabhaya
Tourists arrive at Suvarnabhumi airport. Thai operators support the idea of forgoing quarantine for those vaccinated against Covid-19. Pornprom Satrabhaya

Offering an estimate of 80% of inbound travel companies closing, the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta) encourages the government to allow vaccinated visitors to visit the country without quarantine in the third quarter to boost demand.

Around 30% of 10,000 registered inbound tourism companies have shuttered permanently, while half have stopped their operations temporarily because Thailand cannot receive international visitors, said Vichit Prakobgosol, president of Atta.

Only 20% of inbound operators remain in business by pivoting to the domestic market, which is ravaged by the new spike in local transmissions.

"Operators have to fight until the last breath to maintain business, at least until the third quarter when there's hope for a new flow of tourists," Mr Vichit said. "If inbound tourism can restart, the country's economic recovery will get back on track."

As many countries have started mass vaccination programmes, operators in Thailand support the idea of exempting those from quarantine who are vaccinated against Covid-19.

He said the number of people who receive jabs in the first half this year may exceed 1 billion globally, including potential tourists from China and Southeast Asia.

The government has to start planning safe entry guidelines, such as requiring a swab test on arrival or a tracking application, said Mr Vichit.

Atta, the Thai Hotels Association and the Association of Domestic Travel joined a meeting with the Tourism and Sports Ministry on Monday to discuss urgent relief measures.

Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the tourism and sports minister, said he will submit the financial aid plan operators are requesting to the prime minister, making the proposal at today's cabinet meeting.

The ministry also plans to discuss the initial idea of hotel quarantine (formerly known as area quarantine), which allows tourists to stay within hotel areas outside their rooms.

If the concept is approved, the Public Health Ministry has to set the safety regulations within 1-2 weeks before proposing them to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration.

"The special tourist visa aiming for long-stay tourists might fail to stimulate tourism," Mr Phiphat said. "But at least it helped assure locals that foreigners entering the country passed all the required safety regulations, which could ease quarantine rules."

He remains confident the hotel quarantine programme will bring more inbound demand to Thailand.

But the country will not rush into allowing inoculated tourists to enter without quarantine because it must wait for results from people who completed both doses of vaccine, leading to a discussion with the Public Health Ministry about further guidelines, said Mr Phiphat.

"The government is working on a measure to prove foreign tourists are vaccinated, such as certifications or passport stamps," he said.

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