When & How Will Thailand  Reopen Fully Without Restrictions? 

When & How Will Thailand  Reopen Fully Without Restrictions? 

When & How Will Thailand  Reopen Fully Without Restrictions? 

Business operators in tourism industry were hopeful when Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced mid-June that the country will be fully reopened to vaccinated foreign visitors within 120 days, with all businesses being able to resume normal operations and visitors free to travel across the country. He also added that foreign visitors and returning Thai citizens must be allowed entry  “without quarantine or other inconvenient restrictions”.

Mid-October is around the corner and there are few signs of a “full-reopening”.

However, that also depends on what your definition of a “re-opening” means. If it’s a reopening like Phuket Sandbox, where a traveller needs to  apply for a COE entry (which takes at least 15 days) , then agree to subject themselves to 3 very pricey  Covid-19 virus tests , land up on a deserted island with shutters down and no chance of  a glass of wine, then yes, the country is reopening several destinations at the same time.

The Telegraph had an article that ran with headline, “Thailand: the country with the most complicated entry restrictions on Earth”. Excepts from the article says it as it is, “Be warned that the required ‘certificate of entry’ is more extensive than the Passenger  Locator Forms you may be used to, requiring applicants to upload travel insurance  details, vaccination proof, testing payment proof, hotel reservations, plane tickets and passport details. A quick search reveals angry travelers describing the form as  “complicated”, with one Facebook user saying they ”gave up”

On the other hand if you took “full-reopening” to be an opening where everything is back to normal and “without inconvenient restrictions” then looks like it would be a longer  wait.

When PM Prayuth made that promise, it was on the basis that 70% of the public would be vaccinated and would have achieved herd immunity.

Plan A, Astra Zeneca did not materialize on time, an oversight in the agreement concerning delivery timing and Plan B of Sinovac  met with public uproar.

For a country that depends so heavily on tourism as a main money churner, an industry  that supports huge amount of smes and employment, both in the formal and informal sector, one would have thought no stone would have been left  unturned to make sure that all preparations were in place to create the perfect   and safe environment for a ‘tourism comeback’. 

Looks like policy makers will continue with re-openings and restrictions this year and plan for a full re-opening without restrictions next year.

Three indicators to watch out for that the country will fully open early next year are vaccination campaign, the political scenario and TAT policies.

Vaccination Campaign
 If a 70% or above double, vaccination rate is achieved then the policy makers may be more inclined and confident to go for a full reopening without restrictions and  complicated procedures of entry.

Political Scenario

Speculations of Dissolution of Parliament in  early 2022 and subsequent elections are gaining momentum amongst political observers and Thai media. Should this happen the  government would need to have the economy look decent while campaigning and at present, only the turbo booster of tourism could give the country’s economy the shot it  needs to get back on it’s feet. In this scenario, it would be to the government’s benefit to  pursue a reopening without restrictions as soon as possible.
 
TAT Policies

The good news is that policy makers seem to have a solid opening plan in place for early next year since they have approved a policy to implement a 500 baht tourist tax for  a “tourism transformation fund” and are targeting 10 million tourists to make 5 billion baht.

The move  has been met with criticism from operators who feel it’s another added deterrent to the smooth and easy entry of the country on top of the the other restrictions and procedures required at present.

Pre-pandemic, Thailand’s attraction as a tourist destination is partly because of its liberal visa policies, welcoming people from numerous countries with minimal formalities.

On the other hand, an optimistic view may be that this is an indication that policy makers are serious about an early 2022 opening, a full re-opening without restrictions, without tourists having to go through hoops and loops of tedious convoluted procedures or burning a hole in their pockets on test kits and be able to enjoy the charms of Thailand in all its glory and dimensions and that most importantly, policy makers are committed  to  bring in at  least 10 million tourists next year. 

If this is the case then the 500 baht tourist tax is acceptable but if this is an added   point to the Phuket Sandbox model, then the 10-million-tourists target next year seems a  remote  dream.

Written By - Thai Business Box.