Chiang Mai ramps up jabs as clusters emerge

Chiang Mai ramps up jabs as clusters emerge

A passenger is screened for proof of Covid-19 vaccination at Chiang Mai International Airport. (Bangkok Post photo)
A passenger is screened for proof of Covid-19 vaccination at Chiang Mai International Airport. (Bangkok Post photo)

Chiang Mai is accelerating its mass vaccination campaign to reopen to international tourists on Nov 1 despite recent virus flare-ups.

"The current clusters have affected local confidence towards reopening. Everyone is working hard to flatten the curve by preparing beds for critically ill patients and ramping up vaccinations," said Punlop Saejew, president of the Tourism Council of Chiang Mai.

At present, around 30% of hospital beds are available in the province, while beds for those who are severely ill were 95% occupied, according to Chiang Mai's communicable disease committee.

Chiang Mai's vaccination rate stands at over 51% for the first jab, and more than 35% of its residents have been fully inoculated.

He said Chiang Mai can administer up to 20,000 doses per day and that major clusters including fresh markets are the focus.

Meanwhile, tourism operators have already launched campaigns to lure potential markets, such as South Korea, Japan, Singapore, the US, the UK and European countries before the official announcement of the 46 low-risk countries was published.

Mr Punlop said the target group for Chiang Mai is Thais and fully-vaccinated tourists from eligible countries who are exempt from quarantine as the safety of locals is a priority and quarantine-free entry will lead to more travel demand.

Tourists outside the low-risk list who want to visit Chiang Mai have to buy tour packages in the four pilot districts of Mueang, Mae Rim, Mae Taeng and Doi Tao with a minimum stay of seven days before travelling to other areas.

He said the sandbox programme will target visitors and business travellers from Vietnam, Indonesia and India who want to buy packages under a sealed route for playing golf.

However, the market might not be very lucrative compared to quarantine-free travel.

La-Iad Bungsrithong, president of the Thai Hotels Association's northern chapter, said after an update from the Tourism Authority of Thailand's offices in China, the Chinese market is not likely to start taking leisure trips abroad and come to the country until next February due to the Chinese government's zero-Covid policy.

Without significant volume from source markets, the growth rate for international arrivals in Chiang Mai during the first half of 2022 is expected to remain in the single digits, she said.

Domestic travel is tipped to see a 30% rise during the peak travel period this year and early next year.

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