From October 15, fully vaccinated foreign tourists will be able to visit Bangkok without having to quarantine, authorities said on September 15.
The announcement comes five days after the Tourism Authority of Thailand had set October 1 as the date when fully vaccinated foreign travellers would be able to visit the Thai capital and four other provinces without undergoing two weeks’ hotel quarantine.
Minister of Tourism and Sports Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn announced the move after discussions with Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang.
The proportion of people vaccinated in all Bangkok districts is expected to reach the 70 per cent threshold for reopening by the end of this month.
Phiphat said all Bangkok districts will open to foreign travellers at the same time.
He added that four other tourism areas – Hua Hin, Cha-am, Chiang Mai and Pattaya – will open on October 1 if preparations go according to plan.
Thailand is pressing ahead with plans to reopen despite a deadly third wave of infections, driven by the Delta variant, as the kingdom seeks to salvage a tourism industry hammered by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Tourism made up a fifth of Thailand’s national income in 2019 but severe travel curbs imposed to fight Covid-19 saw the usual flood of foreign visitors dwindle to almost nothing, contributing to the economy’s worst performance in over 20 years.
Later in October, 21 more destinations are slated to be added to the list including Chiang Rai, Sukhothai and popular seaside getaway Rayong.
But Thailand’s third and deadliest Covid-19 wave has not yet fully subsided, and the tourism agency has warned that plans could change.
Thailand got through 2020 relatively unscathed by Covid-19, recording low numbers of infections, but since April, the Delta variant has taken hold and cases have soared to 1,434,237, with 14,953 total deaths, as reported by the Ministry of Public Health reported on September 16.
More than 29,000 fully vaccinated international visitors hit the beach at Phuket under its “Sandbox” scheme piloted since July in the holiday island, generating nearly $50 million in revenue, according to government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana.
Three more Thai islands also reopened – Samui, Tao and Phangan – with slightly more onerous restrictions.
One cloud hanging over Thailand’s tourism revival plans is the travel advice of other countries discouraging would-be tourists from visiting.
Britain and the US have warned against travel to Thailand because of rising case numbers and low vaccination rates.
About 16 per cent of the Thai population have received two coronavirus vaccine doses, the government’s Covid-19 task force said.
THE NATION (THAILAND)/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, AFP