Operators upbeat on cuts
Entry rule easing welcomed, but companies decry ongoing Thailand Pass
Authorities say Thailand is on track to regain its spot as one of the world's top tourist destinations, with a goal of earning 1.5 trillion baht this year after the elimination of RT-PCR tests upon arrival and the Test & Go scheme from May 1.
However, Thailand Pass registration remains in place for the time being, with two requirements: a vaccine certificate and insurance coverage of at least US$10,000.
Tourism operators disagree with the retention of the Thailand Pass registration.
Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), said there was no need to show a negative result from a Covid-19 antigen test kit (ATK) because the ATK is only a recommendation, not compulsory.
Entry rules on May 1 are determined by vaccination status. All inoculated travellers, regardless of nationality, can use the "vaccinated travel free lane" to have their Thailand Pass registration checked, and then leave the airport without any testing.
Those who are not vaccinated have two options: show a negative RT-PCR test upon arrival or a booking for alternative quarantine (AQ) accommodation for five days of isolation. In the past few months, arrivals entering AQ lodging accounted for less than 5% of total arrivals.
Based on the relaxations made at a Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration meeting yesterday, minimum revenue of 500 billion baht from 10 million tourists is expected this year, excluding the Chinese market, said Mr Yuthasak.
He said improved ease of travel will enable tourists to save more and should be a decisive factor in persuading potential visitors to choose Thailand over other destinations. This could help Thailand regain its tourism competitiveness after losing its top ranking to other countries that have already implemented relaxed entry rules, said Mr Yuthasak.
During the sandbox period last year, which mandated numerous requirements, particularly a number of pricey RT-PCR tests, the average expenditure per trip was 62,000 baht, up from 47,000 baht during the pre-pandemic period.
Average spending might total 50,000 baht with the new rules, depending on travel regulations in visitors' homelands, such as an RT-PCR negative test upon their return, he said.
"Half of the tourism revenue tally in 2019 of 3 trillion baht is our target this year," Mr Yuthasak said. "However, we need to push the domestic market more. Early next month, we will decide how to extend the 'We Travel Together' stimulus scheme to maintain positive momentum for the low season."
Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the tourism and sports minister, previously said the government wanted at least 7-13 million foreign arrivals this year, generating 700 billion baht.
Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association (THA), said the remaining travel restrictions should be scrapped by June, especially the troublesome Thailand Pass system. She said the government should talk to airlines about screening vaccination certificates and insurance policies before boarding as an alternative.
The latest easing of travel rules should facilitate more arrivals, but hoteliers must wait until May to gauge the response as the Russia-Ukraine war is ongoing, said Mrs Marisa.
Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, president of the THA's southern chapter, said Thailand Pass remained a nuisance for tourists. He said the government should reduce the paperwork to persuade tourists to visit the country.