Local agencies eye jab tourism
Tour operators are aiming to offer potential tourists from neighbouring countries vaccine tourism packages in Thailand once vaccines procured by private hospitals become available.
Chotechuang Soorangura, managing director of NS Travel and Tours, said vaccine inequality and the slow rollout pace is expected to amplify outbreaks in neighbouring countries, especially as India is suffering a new surge and is unable to provide vaccine support to Myanmar as planned.
Even though vaccines to private hospitals will arrive in October, there will be demand from high-end tourists in Myanmar and Laos as they may not be vaccinated or would like to receive extra shots to boost immunity.
Mr Chotechuang said operators have to wait for updates on vaccine policies which change rapidly such as whether people have to obtain medical records with a hospital to receive a vaccination.
Moreover, each type of vaccine requires a different interval period before the second jab is given and this may affect the tour programme.
The most important factor is the quarantine period in Thailand and it has to be less than seven days to attract more tourists.
"Medical tourists or those who want to receive vaccines from nearby countries will be among the first movers to visit Thailand," said Mr Chotechuang.
In terms of expatriates in Thailand who have to wait longer despite the government including them in national vaccine rollouts starting June 7, Luzi Matzig, chief executive of VIP Jets, a private jet provider, said it has received three private flight bookings for 8-12 passengers to get vaccinations in Dubai from May to June and two of those requests came from expatriates.
A one-way private jet ride to Dubai costs around 2.6-4 million baht.
There has been no request to receive inoculations in other long-haul destinations which are offering free vaccinations to tourists like the US, Guam or Serbia because services to those areas are too expensive.
He said local outbound operators routinely ask for a price quote on different types of private jets offering vaccine trips but the companies do not offer any vaccine tourism packages.