Bangkok should be included in the tourism sandbox scheme for October that allows vaccinated visitors to enter without quarantine, or else Thailand will miss its goal of 6.5 million foreign tourists this year, say tourism operators.
Vichit Prakobgosol, vice-president of the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT), said Bangkok is a strategic tourism hub as 90% of tourists who visit Pattaya have to start from the capital.
In addition to Phuket, which is slated to reopen first on July 1, five destinations are to follow in October: Krabi, Phangnga, Koh Samui, Pattaya and Chiang Mai.
TCT predicted the number of tourists visiting those six destinations to total 3 million, contributing 156 billion baht, of which 2 million tourists generating 105 billion will come from Phuket.
He said if Bangkok can welcome inoculated tourists, another 3 million will be added to the tally, bringing it closer to the goal of 6.5 million. However, this forecast depends on the vaccination pace in Bangkok, said Mr Vichit.
"The government has to announce bilateral agreements on travel bubbles with low-risk areas such as China, Hong Kong, Singapore or South Korea, and roll out vaccine certificates by April to let operators prepare business in advance," he said.
Thaneth Tantipiriyakij, vice-president of the Phuket Tourist Association, said the province is increasing vaccinations to 10,000-12,000 doses per day, while daily arrivals at Phuket airport recently reached 10,000, up from 2,000 during the second wave. But the level remains a far cry from 60,000-100,000 prior to the pandemic.
Chamnan Srisawat, the TCT president, said the government must continue supporting the domestic market while waiting for reopening. A TCT survey found unemployment in the tourism industry rose by 411,840 to 1.45 million.
The tourism index for the first quarter, which polled 730 operators nationwide between Feb 24 and March 10, stood at 36, down from 62 in the fourth quarter last year. This reading is the second lowest since the pandemic began, trailing only the second quarter last year at 12. A reading below 100 indicates low confidence.
Tourism operators in the Northeast had the highest reading at 55, thanks to the lowest infection rate, while those in the west and east had the lowest at 26 and 29, respectively.
The government plans to allow Songkran celebrations to go ahead without tight travel restrictions. The Tourism Authority of Thailand estimates the six-day holiday (April 10-15) will lead to 3.2 million trips generating 12 billion baht.