Sudden jab proof rule upsets foreign tour firms: Phuket Tourist Association

Sudden jab proof rule upsets foreign tour firms: Phuket Tourist Association

Tourism recovery and Thailand's reputation in jeopardy, body says

Tourists relax on a beach on Ko Racha Yai isalnd, Phuket, on Friday. (Photo: Achadthaya Chuenniran)
Tourists relax on a beach on Ko Racha Yai isalnd, Phuket, on Friday. (Photo: Achadthaya Chuenniran)

PHUKET: Tour operators in many countries have been upset by the Public Health Ministry's suddenly-announced requirement for all international travellers to show proof of at least two Covid-19 vaccinations before boarding flights to Thailand and this could affect the attempt to restore the tourist industry, the Phuket Tourist Association said in a letter to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) has formally notified all parties about the change to arrival rules for international travellers aged 18 and over. The revival of this jab requirement will take effect for flights landing in Thailand from 1am local time on Monday.

The letter to the prime minister, signed by Phuket Tourist Association president Thaneth Tantipiriyakij,  said the new jab requirement could affect ongoing attempts to restore the tourist industry. Gen Prayut was asked to address the problem and find a way out of it.

The letter was also addressed to Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprasarn and Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn.

The Phuket Tourist Association said it had received negative reactions from foreign tour operators, who it said expressed consternation over the abrupt change to the arrival rules.

According to the association, tour companies in the United Kingdom said no warning had been given before the change was announced, and most of their customers were already travelling to airports and might not have a Covid-19 vaccination certificate with them. As a result, they could be denied boarding on the flight and the companies would have to reimburse them. The companies said they tried to search for on an official announcement on a Thai government website but to no avail.

Tour companies in Scandinavia said they were not able to inform their customers in time about the requirement. The companies had to cancel the tickets and issue refunds, causing damage to the business.

In Germany, tour companies said the jab requirement had created a problem and greatly reduced confidence in Thai tourism. On being notified of the requirement, more than 1,000 room-night reservations had been cancelled as about 20% of the population had not been vaccinated. The new measure imposed by Thailand could not be cited as a reason for the companies to seek refunds from airlines if their customers were not allowed to board a flight, causing a problem for both the companies and the clients.

Tour companies in France had likewise expressed dissatisfaction with the requirement as this could not be cited as a reason to seek a refund from airlines. They would have to cancel the tours to Thailand and declare force majeure, citing Thai politicial instability.

Meanwhile, tour companies in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) said a number of their customers had not received full Covid-19 vaccination or were not vaccinated at all. The requirement had caused a big problem because some major tour operators had entered chartered flight contracts with airlines in advance. The sudden change to the travel rules caused the majority of their customers to be unable to travel to Thailand.

The Phuket Tourist Association urgently requested the prime minister to solve this major problem.

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