Published on : Saturday, October 17, 2020
At present, Thailand is having a tete-a-tete with China to set up a quarantine-free travel corridor by January 2020. This would help to save its tourism industry that’s ailing for long.
The agreement with China will certainly impact the success of Thai tourism’s limited reopening to international travelers this month, as per Tourism Minister, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn. He said that China, which accounted for over a quarter of tourist arrivals to Thailand before covid, will be the first country with low-risk the Southeast Asian nation will sign up for quarantine-free travel. For the Chinese visitors, the current mandatory quarantine will be changed to coronavirus testing and a mobile tracking application, if the return of tourists from abroad does not spike up, leading to fresh Covid-19 outbreaks, Phiphat said. As per the official data, last year, about 11 million Chinese holidaymakers visited Thailand, netting the country about $17 billion.
Thailand has fought hard behind reopening its borders to tourists due to the resistance from a section of the local industry and public concern that the government is not at all prepared to handle a second wave of infections with confidence. However, an agreement with China may open the door for similar travel agreements with Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan, Phiphat said.
“It can be a very happy new year as Thailand’s travel high season is the perfect time to allow people into the country,” Phiphat said in an interview in Bangkok on Thursday. “Most Chinese visitors come to Thailand for a week, so being quarantined would not be worth the trip for many.”
The minister hopes that tourist arrivals to reach between 5 million to 10 million in 2021, compared with an estimated 7 million in 2020. Thailand has handled the virus outbreak in a much better way than majority of other Southeast Asian countries. COVID has damaged its tourism industry completely which netted more than $60 billion in revenue from about 40 million visitors in 2019.
“China has about 800 million people in 22 provinces that have been free from infections,” Phiphat said. “If we can attract even just 1% of those people to travel here, that would already be plenty.”
From China, on Oct. 20th, the first group of visitors under a previously declared long-term tourist visa program will arrive in Bangkok, the minister said. The government expects to issue about 1,200 visas every month under the program to help the industry that’s slowly recovering from no foreign tourist arrivals for five months in a row.
“Thais don’t have enough money to boost the industry, so either way we have to find a way to bring in foreign tourists,” Phiphat said. “If we don’t receive any foreign tourists, our economy will suffer a heavy contraction.”