The priority to vaccinate the population of Buri Ram must be revised after the MotoGP event was cancelled because of the country's rapid rise in new infections, says the Tourism and Sports Ministry.
Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the tourism and sports minister, said there's no need to rush the reopening of Buri Ram, which was previously set to welcome international tourists in September. The absence of the motorcycle race means the province will unlikely attract a large number of visitors this year, he said.
Buri Ram remains one of 10 pilot destinations slated to reopen to vaccinated foreigners later this year but this date can be delayed from September, Mr Phiphat said.
MotoGP announced the cancellation of its 16th race of the season two days ago which was set to be held at the Chang International Circuit, Buri Ram from Oct 15-17.
Mr Phiphat said the ministry will further discuss with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to review tourism performance in each destination over the past few years and adjust the reopening plan accordingly.
"We have to set a priority and distribute vaccines to pilot areas that have a higher potential to generate strong international demand first," he said.
According to research by the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), Buri Ram ranks 11th in terms of most vaccinated provinces.
As of July 7, 19% of its population or around 300,000 doses have been administered despite criticism against the government's vaccine rollout which failed to prioritise distribution to areas with high infection rates.
"Buri Ram is not considered a high-transmission area or major tourism destination or province in urgent need of vaccines as announced by the Department of Disease Control in May," the TDRI report stated.
TAT governor, Yuthasak Supasorn, said the goal to reopen areas that are ready to welcome tourists in October will proceed under the same plan but it has to be flexible and subject to changes depending on vaccines and travel restrictions in each province to curb the outbreak.
TAT has to promote tourism one to two months prior to reopening to attract international travellers in a timely manner in the last quarter.
"If areas can meet the criteria and receive enough vaccines to achieve herd immunity, it's possible to reopen as planned," Mr Yuthasak said.
However, the national vaccine distribution is falling short and may derail the reopening goal in many provinces besides those in the southern region which have already reopened.