Thais lobby to ease UK 'red' travel list ban

Thais lobby to ease UK 'red' travel list ban

A British deputy minister is preparing to visit Phuket under its Sandbox tourism scheme, raising hopes Britain may soon remove Thailand from its travel "red list", according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

The British government added Thailand to its "red list" on Aug 30, which resulted in banning people from Thailand entry into the UK.

The travel restriction does not ban British people from travelling to Thailand. But British citizens who return from Thailand must enter quarantine for 10 days, Nanthasiri Ronsiri, director of TAT's Phuket office, said yesterday.

The TAT's London office has convened a meeting with the Royal Thai embassy there and the British government to discuss the possiblity of easing the ban. Citing Phuket Immigration Office data, more than 3,000 British tourists have arrived on the island under its tourism scheme during the past two weeks.

Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, president of the southern chapter of the Thailand Hotels Association, said about 600-700 hotels on the island have reopened to tourists, with 400 hotels applying for Safety and Health Administration (SHA) Plus status.

"These hotels had room reservation rates at 10-15% this month," Mr Kongsak said. "I believe more hotels will gradually reopen by this December as regular guests are expected to start coming back. The reservation rate is also expected to rise to 20-30%."

He said Thai tourists will also be a key engine in the industry's revival as about 150,000 Thais used to visit the island each month, accounting for 20% of reservations.

"The TAT has rolled out a shopping campaign with vouchers to be valid during next year, as well as various hotel promotions valid until December. The hotel industry can rebound in the next two years," Mr Kongsak said.

He also said his association and other tourism industry groups will petition authorities to ease alcohol restrictions in Phuket, which are forcing many potential foreign tourists to look elsewhere.

"The government should consider that alcohol isn't the key factor driving infections. All tourists want to come here to relax. If alcohol remains restricted, they may consider going to other countries," he said.

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