Pattaya shifting towards quarantine-free travel
Pattaya is pivoting towards quarantine-free travel under sealed routes as it hopes to increase its appeal despite pricey Covid-19 testing.
Thanet Supornsahasrungsi, acting president of the Chon Buri Tourism Council, said potential markets for Pattaya consist of tourists from Russia, India and foreigners who have family, condos or factories in industrial estates in the province.
After a discussion with Russia-based tour operator Pegas Touristik, the council determined fees for three RT-PCR tests at 8,500 baht and Covid insurance spanning 3,000-5,000 baht represent a huge drawback for the country's reopening.
Mr Thanet said 12-day tourism packages for two people normally cost 30,000 baht. The additional Covid fees directly affect tour package prices.
Tourism operators proposed using antigen test kits, which are cheaper and provide a faster result, for the first two tests, then a RT-PCR test for the last check before tourists travel to other areas.
Operators also urged the government to reduce landing fees or jet fuel prices for chartered flights because this could help tour vendors set an affordable price to attract more tourists.
"We have to balance public health safety measures and tourism marketing to allow the reopening plans to gain more competitiveness," Mr Thanet said.
He said many requirements have made Thailand an expensive destination compared with competitors for the Russian market such as Venezuela, Turkey and Egypt.
The standard operating procedures (SOPs) for Pattaya were approved by the provincial communicable disease committee on Monday. They allow tourists to travel under sealed routes as soon as they receive a negative test result upon arrival.
However, travellers must stay at a single alternative quarantine or SHA Plus Extra hotel, which have partner hospitals, before moving to another SHA Plus hotel from day eight.
Pattaya's SOPs are scheduled for submission to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration next week.
Mr Thanet said operators anticipate restoring international receipts to 20-30% from the 9.4 million arrivals tallied in 2019, in their best-case scenario. The government must prioritise vaccination in districts scheduled to reopen next month as the current vaccination rate is only 36-37% of residents in Bang Lamung and Sattahip districts, he said.