Vaccination rule makes full return

Vaccination rule makes full return

1 million Chinese to visit this year

The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) will reintroduce the requirement that all international travellers must show proof of full vaccination before boarding their flights to Thailand.

Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob said yesterday the CAAT had now formally notified concerned parties about the change to arrival rules for international travellers aged over 18 to be imposed tomorrow. They will last at least until the end of the month.

Everyone entering the country must show proof of full vaccination or a letter certifying that they have recovered from Covid-19 infections no more than six months prior. Unvaccinated travellers must have proof of why they cannot receive a vaccine.

Airlines are obliged to check these documents before boarding passengers and will be responsible for returning those without the correct paperwork to their point of origin.

Thai passport holders or travellers in transit are not required to submit proof of vaccination or hold a Covid-19 insurance policy.

Travellers from countries that ban Covid-19 positive arrivals must also have virus-specific insurance and visitors with suspected symptoms of Covid-19 will likely be subject to tests upon arrival.

The rules coincide with China's border reopening after nearly three years of closures and restrictions.

It is estimated that about 60,000 Chinese will arrive in Thailand this month with the number of arrivals likely to reach 300,000 in the first quarter of the year.

The first flight from China to touch down at Suvarnabhumi Airport tomorrow is operated by Xiamen Airlines and will carry 200 passengers.

Kasikorn Research Center (K-Research) estimates that about 1 million Chinese will travel to Thailand this year; more if restrictions and related conditions become favourable.

While China's dropping of border controls will be a boon to the Thai tourism sector, it will take time before demand returns to the pre-Covid levels which saw a monthly average of 900,000 Chinese visitors.

Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Chon Buri are popular among Chinese tourists, but young travellers also show keen interest in community tourism in secondary provinces.

Nattaporn Triratanasirikul, deputy managing director at K-Research, said the Covid-19 situation in China is being closely watched due to possible risks of a new wave of infections which could dampen economic activities.

She said K-Research is cautiously optimistic about China's reopening so it is maintaining its estimated number of tourist arrivals for 2023 at 22 million and forecasting economic growth of 3.2%.

In Phuket, provincial health office chief Koosak Kukiatkul said local public health authorities are prepared to welcome all visitors, not just Chinese tourists.

He also allayed concerns about China's recent outbreak, saying the infections were found to be the Omicron subvariant of Covid-19, BA.5, which had already spread in Thailand.

Thanet Tantipiriyakit, president of the Phuket Tourist Association, said tourism and related businesses operators in the Andaman Sea can't wait to welcome back visitors arriving from China.

The number of Chinese tourists is predicted to peak in October as the month coincides with China's National Day holidays and semester break.

Sareeya Boonmak, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand's Kanchanaburi Office, said Chinese visitors now form the province's third largest foreign tourist contingent after Russia and the UK.

Mostly Chinese visitors buy day-trip package tours from Bangkok or Pattaya while young tourists who travel on their own take longer trips and spend at least two days.

During their absence, the province welcomed other foreign visitors, but it has recently started receiving inquiries from Chinese travel agencies again.

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