Push for bubbles amid tourism drive

Push for bubbles amid tourism drive

Talks continue after revival of Test & Go

Passengers are seen at Suvarnabhumi airport. (File photo)
Passengers are seen at Suvarnabhumi airport. (File photo)

The Tourism and Sports Ministry plans to continue travel bubble discussions with short-haul destinations following this week's resumption of the Test & Go scheme.

The Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT) is calling for a more relaxed RT-PCR testing regime to bring back at least 5 million tourists this year.

The country wants to continue travel bubble initiatives, particularly with nearby countries that generate enormous cross-border traffic, such as Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia, said Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn.

He said the matter could be up for discussion when Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha welcomes his Malaysian counterpart to Thailand later this month.

The ministry plans to visit Beijing for the Winter Olympics this month and wants to use the opportunity to seek further updates from China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism regarding a travel agreement.

Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn said 35,046 tourists registered for Thailand Pass during its first day of reopening on Feb 1, of which 31,343 were for the Test & Go scheme.

As hotels must now verify Thailand Pass bookings via the new Thailand Pass Hotel & Swap System, 20% of guests were verified as of Feb 1.

Mr Yuthasak said hoteliers have to verify bookings within 30 hours or registration will be rejected and tourists must resubmit the application.

Vichit Prakobgosol, TCT vice-president, said even though the tourism sector was improving, strict testing rules were an obstacle to growth as they deter tourists.

He said locations that require no RT-PCR test on arrival, such as Dubai, the Maldives and Turkey, can now attract more arrivals than in 2019 before the pandemic and such reopening policies have not worsened their outbreaks.

"If there is no new surge in cases and fatalities after the first month of Test & Go resumption, the government has to consider dropping the RT-PCR test requirement. If it does, the country is projected to see at least 5 million tourists," Mr Vichit said.

The TCT's recent tourism confidence index in the fourth quarter of last year stood at 47, improving from seven in the third quarter.

However, this confidence level is weak compared with 62 in the same period of 2020.

The index polled 740 tourism-related operators between Nov 20-Dec 10, 2021. A reading below 100 indicates low tourism confidence.

In a bid to enhance competitiveness, the council is working on a tourism clinic by hosting workshops in pilot areas like Phuket, Krabi and Phangnga, said Chamnan Srisawat, TCT's president.

TCT wants the government to allocate a 200-million-baht budget, of which 100 million is for a reskilling and upskilling programme, with the rest to support tourism development.

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