Mixed reactions to scrapping tests
Tourism operators call for more restrictions to be lifted in line with other countries
The business sector voiced a varied response to the government's latest decision to scrap the mandatory pre-departure coronavirus test for visitors starting next month.
The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) decided on Friday to lift the requirement for an RT-PCR test 72 hours before departure for inbound travellers from April 1.
However other rules remain, such as taking an RT-PCR test upon arrival, a Covid antigen test on the fifth day and insurance coverage of US$20,000.
NOT STRONG ENOUGH
Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association, said scrapping the pre-arrival RT-PCR test might not be strong enough to lure international travellers back as those planning holidays now have several choices with far fewer restrictions than Thailand.
"In addition to Western markets, hotels have started to receive inquiries from South Korea, India and Singapore. However, travellers are reluctant to book their trips as Thailand still mandates more requirements than other countries," she said.
Travellers during the pandemic will prioritise destinations that can facilitate their trips with the fewest restrictions, said Mrs Marisa.
She said the latest relaxation will help stimulate the international market, but it is not a significant improvement to the tourism outlook, which was static after Test and Go was resumed in February.
"The tourism industry has been jeopardised by heated competition from neighbouring countries and a sluggish domestic market after a spike in local cases derailed planned trips of many holidaymakers. Bringing in more international tourists is the only viable option for our workers to survive," said Mrs Marisa.
Santisuk Klongchaiya, chief executive of Thai AirAsia, said the exemption of a pre-arrival test is a good opportunity to stimulate the international market as tourists face fewer procedures and lower costs.
The CCSA decision is also in line with airline's expansion plan to prepare more international connectivity, he said.
However, the CCSA should ease other restrictions soon, particularly the RT-PCR test upon arrival plus a night at a hotel, which should be replaced with an antigen test kit (ATK) to create a more convenient flow for those who want to explore other provinces earlier, said Mr Santisuk.
RELAX, DON'T DO IT
The Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) is standing firm on its proposal to abandon the Test and Go scheme, quarantine and RT-PCR Covid-19 tests for the sake of tourism and the economy.
"We disagree with the government, which still uses these mandatory measures while many other countries have greatly relaxed travel rules," said Supant Mongkolsuthree, chairman of the FTI.
According to the FTI, foreign travellers, including investors and tourists, do not want to spend much time and expense dealing with these screening requirements, so many of them may delay their plans to travel to Thailand.
"The government seems to make this issue more complicated. Thailand supposedly reopened last November, but foreigners cannot freely travel to the country," said Mr Supant.
The federation planned to discuss its proposal with the CCSA yesterday, asking it to abandon the screening measures to attract more visitors and revive the pandemic-ravaged tourism industry.
He said earlier Thailand should allow foreign tourists who already received two doses of vaccines to enter the country without going through other measures. They should only be required to show "vaccine passports" that prove they are fully vaccinated upon arrival, said Mr Supant.
Sanan Angubolkul, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said the government should cancel the Thailand Pass registration and Test and Go scheme for foreigners travelling to Thailand. Instead, he said it would be better to allow airlines to manage the issue themselves, citing the number of infected tourists in Thailand as very small.
"We will lose the opportunity if it is too late. Foreign tourists want to travel to Thailand," said Mr Sanan.
Voralax Tulaphorn, chief marketing officer of The Mall Group, said the company agrees with the government's latest decision to ease tourism curbs, noting it is attractive enough to lure foreign tourists to the country.
"It should not only help stimulate the economy and tourism industry, but also other industries, especially retail," Ms Voralax said.
However, she said the government still needs to stimulate consumption by launching packages to revitalise the economy. All parties must strictly follow government safety measures, said Ms Voralax.