Tourism officials are optimistic about travel resuming next month under a long-term visa program despite a chilly response to its requirements.
Srisuda Wanapinyosak, tourism authority deputy governor for Europe, said that while that market is a big hope, especially in the coming months when cold weather typically draws sun-seekers, a poll conducted by its London office found only 6% of respondents were OK with spending two weeks in quarantine upon arrival.
In addition to quarantine upon arrival, travelers will also need to provide proof they tested negative for COVID-19 and may only travel on chartered flights or their own aircraft. Reports that tourists would also need to complete two weeks of quarantine prior to departure do not appear to be true.
Srisuda said officials are developing plans for online recreational activities such as virtual yoga, meditation and cooking classes for the isolation period.
“What we’re trying to do is to make the 14-day quarantine more interesting and fun than just watching Netflix,” Srisuda said.
They will also encourage approved quarantine hotels to arrange offline activities such as live music shows guests can enjoy from their rooms.
Authority governor Yuthasak Supasorn said they’d received over a dozen inquiries about the Special Tourist Visa, which is good for up to nine months, from European countries. He said Thailand would likely consider arrivals from low-risk countries such as Scandinavia and those in central Europe first.
While the first group of travelers is expected in some time in October, details on how they would be handled are still being developed by the Interior Ministry and Immigration Bureau.
Placating public fear about the program remains a priority.
Srisuda said that while the government is dedicated to easing community concerns about the return of tourists, it needs to move forward in the face of competition from other countries which are starting to reopen.
Although the loss of tourism revenue has caused deep economic pain, fear of the virus resurging months after it all but vanished in the kingdom has led many to oppose the so-called Phuket Model since it was announced in August. That fear was on display in July when more than 3,400 people rushed to get tested in Rayong province after an Egyptian air force officer infected with the virus visited several locations.
Subscribe to The Coconuts Podcast for top trending news and pop culture from Southeast Asia and Hong Kong every Friday!