Up, up and away

Thailand’s post-pandemic tourism resumption is graduating from a cautious Sandbox scheme to a bolder unrestricted welcome for all fully vaccinated travellers, and the travel and tourism community is ecstatic.

Following on from Thailand’s Sandbox reopening schemes in 2H2021, the Kingdom has moved on to welcome fully vaccinated tourists without quarantine requirements since November 1.

Thailand’s unrestricted welcome will be offered initially to at least 10 low-risk countries, including the UK, Singapore, Germany, China, and the US. This will build up towards January 2022, when Thailand fully reopens her borders to international travellers.

Furthermore, negotiations are underway for two-way travel bubbles with neighbouring countries to speed up intra-regional travel recovery.

Phuket was the first Thai destination to welcome again international travellers

Sharing details of the intended travel bubbles in October, Thailand’s minister of tourism and sports, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, said that many international tourists are keen to visit places outside of the designated Sandbox areas, but are deterred by prevailing quarantine requirements.

As a first step, the Thai government is negotiating with Cambodia to reopen Trat province in eastern Thailand and Cambodia’s Koh Kong island. The deal is expected to be finalised within the final quarter of this year.

Authorities are also in discussion to link Malaysia’s Langkawi Island with Koh Lipe Island in southern Thailand, and with Laos for a similar arrangement.

Recent progress in travel and tourism recovery has sparked optimism among Thailand’s trade players, with Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) expressing confidence that a host of activities to be rolled out nationwide would help return Thailand to her position among the world’s most desirable tourist destinations.

TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said focus now would be on promoting destinations that ready and safe for visitors, in a bid to rebuild travellers’ confidence, as well as to establish high-value tourism products and services, such as those promising luxurious experiences, health and wellness attention, sports activities and community-based exposures.

TAT’s areas of focus are in line with the Ministry of Tourism and Sports’ pledge to develop high-end tourism so as to attract bigger spenders.

Sisdivachr Cheewaratanaporn, managing director of Quality Express Tour, told TTG Asia that Thailand’s reopening announcements have been well received by important source markets.

Although citizens of China, Japan and Hong Kong are still banned from travelling abroad, Sisdivachr said interest from consumers there is promising.

“Tourists in many countries want to travel to Thailand,” he said, adding that Indian travellers are ready to descend on Thailand once entry restrictions are relaxed.

Also, European tourists are likely to be among the first groups to return to Thailand during the year-end season and in 1Q2022.

He shared that his agency has started working with overseas agents to sell packages, and have received “fairly good feedback”.

Luzi Matzig, chairman of Asian Trails Group, said the reopening of Thailand to vaccinated visitors will restore confidence from international markets, especially in Europe, which are crucial to the country’s tourism recovery.

Some 70 per cent of the European Union’s adult population has been fully vaccinated and allowed to travel overseas. However, travellers want the Thai government to waive the need for certificate of entry application in order to ease travel, he said.

Matzig is currently working with agents in Europe to prepare tours, and the response has been “very positive”.

Supawan Tanomkieatipume, managing director of the Twin Towers Hotel Bangkok, said room enquiries have spiked while many hotels in the capital and in major tourist destinations have been receiving calls from potential clients looking to rent spaces to run year-end events.

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