Government officials in Thailand have announced a three-stage roadmap for reopening the nation’s tourism sector. The plan, which was approved on 26 March by Thailand’s Centre for Economic Situation Administration (CESA), will lift quarantine restrictions in stages and welcome back international visitors by the end of this year. Chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, CESA confirmed the plan had been approved via a statement by Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, who is Minister of Tourism and Sport.
The revival has already begun. Starting this month, foreign tourists who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 will be permitted to visit six tourism provinces in Thailand – Phuket, Krabi, Phangnga, Surat Thani (Koh Samui), Chon Buri (Pattaya) and Chiang Mai. For the time being, they will still need to be quarantined, although the mandatory isolation period has been reduced from 14 to seven days.
The roadmap will proceed in three phases. From April to June, vaccinated foreign travellers will be permitted to visit designated areas in Thailand, where they will complete a 7-day quarantine in their hotel. The second phase, commonly referred to as the “Phuket Sandbox” will run from July to September, when the island of Phuket will lift all quarantine restrictions, leaving travellers to explore the island at leisure. The third phase will proceed from October to December, when quarantine restrictions will be lifted in all designated areas, including Krabi, Phangnga, Samui, Chon Buri (Pattaya) and Chiang Mai.
All who enter Thailand during each of these phases will still be required to present health certificates that confirm they are free from Covid-19 and have completed their vaccinations. Screening and PCR tests will be completed upon arrival, when tourists will also be required to register for a contact tracing app. Tourists who want to join the quarantine-free programme will be required to show a vaccine certificate, vaccine passport or International Air Transport Association (IATA) travel pass.
Between April and June, around 100,000 foreign tourists are expected to arrive in Phuket, with a total of 6.5 million international arrivals projected by the end of this year. TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn believes the island is the perfect pilot for a wider revival in Thai tourism. “Phuket is better-equipped to serve as the sandbox model to accommodate tourists first, as the government will expedite the two-dose vaccination [process] for at least 70% of the population in Phuket before 1 July,” he explained in a recent statement.
Between October and December, Phuket’s sandbox model will be applied to five other tourism provinces, before a full reopening of the country in January 2022. According to the Minister of Tourism, “CESA approved the reopening plan in principle to allow foreign tourists who have received two vaccine doses to visit Phuket from 1 July without having to undergo quarantine, as proposed by the Tourism Authority of Thailand,” said Mr Phiphat, in his official statement on 26 March. “Phuket will be the first and only province which will be exempted from quarantine from 1 July,” he added.
Elsewhere, Pattaya mayor Sonthaya Khunpluem has asked the central government for additional doses of Covid-19 vaccines, so his city can be fully inoculated in preparation for reopening on 1 October. Pattaya currently has a quota of 864,386 doses,but will require an additional 135,000 to cover nearby municipalities that are essential to tourism in Pattaya, said Mr Sonthaya.
As vaccination programmes continue to rollout nationwide, Thailand’s three-stage plan offers a clear path to revival in the tourism sector. After a long year of lockdown, the end of the road is finally in sight.