Middle East tourists face obstacles

Middle East tourists face obstacles

A man stands near health workers at the Phuket airport as the island reopens to vaccinated foreign tourists without quarantine on July 1. REUTERS
A man stands near health workers at the Phuket airport as the island reopens to vaccinated foreign tourists without quarantine on July 1. REUTERS

Expensive Covid tests and a complex entry process are discouraging travellers from the region.

Thailand’s attempt to attract more visitors from the Middle East is being undermined by a complicated certificate of entry (COE) application process and relatively costly Covid-19 tests, says the Dubai office of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

"Feedback from tourists about the Phuket sandbox is positive, but applying for the COE and expensive RT-PCR tests remain obstacles," said Chaiwat Tamthai, director of the TAT's Dubai office.

He said a RT-PCR test in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) costs around 200-300 baht, compared with 8,000 baht for three tests for a 14-day stay in Thailand.

The number of COE applications during June 1 to Sept 7 from the UAE, comprising a mix of locals and expatriates hailing mostly from Europe, stood at 6,600.

Mr Chaiwat said Phuket welcomed 5,000 tourists from the Middle East in the first month of the sandbox programme, before dropping to 2,000 in August due to stricter regulations and the start of a new school semester in the Middle East.

Travel demand remains in Oman, Jordan and Iran, but these countries are designated as high risk by Thailand because of ongoing Covid-19 outbreaks there as well as low vaccination rates, he said.

Mr Chaiwat said if Thailand maintains the same travel conditions, the number of tourists from the Middle East should reach 20,000 in the final quarter.

He added that if requirements could be relaxed, 100,000 travellers from the region including expatriates may visit Thailand between this year's fourth quarter and the first quarter of 2022.

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Vocabulary

  • complex: having a lot of details or small parts that make it difficult to understand or deal with - ซับซ้อน
  • comprising: consisting of - ประกอบด้วย
  • designated: marked, separated, or given a name for a particular purpose - ถูกกำหนด
  • discourage: to make someone feel like something should not be done - ทำให้ไม่อยาก (ทำสิ่งใดสิ่งหนึ่ง)
  • expatriate (expat): a person living in a country that is not their own - คนที่อาศัยอยู่ต่างประเทศ (เป็นเวลานาน)
  • face: to (likely or possibly) have to deal with a problem - เผชิญ, พบ, เจอ
  • maintain (verb): to make something continue at the same level, standard, etc. - ดำเนินต่อเนื่อง, คงเอาไว้
  • obstacles (noun): difficulties or problems that prevent you from achieving something - อุปสรรค ขวากหนาม
  • relatively: somewhat; in comparison with someone or something similar - ค่อนข้าง
  • strict: very careful and exact - เข้มงวด
  • undermine: to make something or someone become gradually less effective or successful - ทำให้อ่อนลง,ทำลายทีละน้อย,ทำลายอย่างลับ
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