Reopening begins in positive atmosphere

Reopening begins in positive atmosphere

Suvarnabhumi airport returns to life on Monday as the first tourists begin arriving, marking the reopen of Thailand to foreign visitors. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Suvarnabhumi airport returns to life on Monday as the first tourists begin arriving, marking the reopen of Thailand to foreign visitors. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

A positive atmosphere reigned on Monday as Thailand began welcoming vaccinated tourists arriving by air from 63 countries and all deemed at low-risk of Covid-19, without quarantine.

The first flight into Suvarnabhumi airport was All Nippon Airways flight NH 805 from Tokyo, with 11 foreigners  and 32 Thai nationals on board. It was followed by Thai Airways International flight TG 931 from Paris at 6am.

The passengers went through stringent Covid-19 screening by airport staff wearing PPE suits, who also checked their travel documents and provided assistance as needed.

Suvarnabhumi airport general manager Kittipong Kittikachorn said a total of 61 flights were scheduled to arrive on Monday, most of them from Europe, with about 3,000 passengers - 2,300 of them foreigners and the rest Thai returnees.

Mr Kittipong said he was satisfied with the process, with the only problem being congestion at the screening stations where officials had to also check passengers' vaccination documents before allowing them to proceed.

Government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said between Monday and Friday, flights operated by 27 airlines would arrive and depart from Suvarnabhumi airport with a total of 15,230 passengers.

Suvarnabhumi and Phuket airports were the gateways for tourists on the reopening day.

"We are very, very happy," Andre Winkler, 55, told AFP after he and his partner passed immigration at Suvarnabhumi.

"We stay in Thailand for six months every year during the winter because in Germany it's cold... The last time, before corona, we came to Thailand was 2019," he said. "It's been too long."

In Phuket, Edelweiss was the first airline to land, carrying 229 tourists from Zurich and touching down at 8am. Phuket opened for tourists under the sandbox scheme in July but they were the first group arriving under the reopening plan.

Susanne Peter, 57, said in Phuket she and her partner will stay on the island for a week before moving on to Bangkok and Hua Hin.

"We love the (Thai) people, they are really kind and really friendly," she told AFP, adding this was their first trip since the pandemic began.

The government spokesman said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who is attending the COP26 meeting at Glasgow in the United Kingdom, was closely monitoring the first day of the reopening of the country.

The prime minister asked everyone to be good hosts and strictly comply with health safety measures, to ensure the revival of the economy and tourism, the spokesman added.

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