Tourism minister remains upbeat on attracting 5 million visitors
Sentiment within Asian market vital
It is feasible Thailand could receive 5 million international arrivals this year, half the original forecast of 10 million as the pandemic continues to ravage the tourism industry worldwide, according to the Tourism and Sports Ministry.
"If we can attract 5 million tourists this year under the current circumstances, that would be a success," said Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the tourism and sports minister.
To reach 10 million arrivals, a significant number of conditions would have to be met in both Thailand and origin countries for tourists, he said.
Government sentiment and local sentiment between Thailand and countries such as China, India or Malaysia, for example, would need to be strong enough for tourists to feel comfortable visiting. Visitors from these three countries accounted for 40% of the 39.8 million foreign arrivals to Thailand in 2019.
"The number of travellers from long-haul destinations would be insufficient to reach the goal of 10 million arrivals," said Mr Phiphat.
Only the Asian market is in a position to help Thailand attain this goal, he said.
As mass vaccinations are being rolled out worldwide, including in Thailand, the Tourism and Sports Ministry plans to hold discussions with the prime minister and the Public Health Ministry about the possibility of including tourism workers in the early stages of the vaccination programme.
Thailand is scheduled to administer vaccines to high-risk members of the population starting in February.
People employed in the tourism industry such as hotel staff, drivers and workers at restaurants and spas based in major tourism destinations should be among the first groups to receive vaccinations, Mr Phiphat said.
The ministry urges the prime minister to allocate 5 million doses for this group, covering 2.5 million people total.
Such a vaccination programme would provide protection for local workers who are in contact with foreign visitors on a daily basis, he said.
Moreover, the ministry held talks with the Thai Chamber of Commerce and Thai Hotels Association about a proposal regarding hotel quarantine, previously known as area quarantine, to be raised with the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration. The proposal targets March as a launch date, said Mr Phiphat.
"The Public Health Ministry is working on the vaccine passport framework, which may be operated either via an application or smart card," he said.
Once this scheme was ready, tourists around the world holding a certificate of Covid-19 inoculation could enter the country, said Mr Phiphat.