Published on : Thursday, October 22, 2020
Thailand’s tourist industry took a modest step toward getting back its corona virus-battered economy by welcoming 39 visitors who flew in from Shanghai. It is the first such arrival since regular travelers were banned from entering the country almost seven months before, when the virus first struck.
Visitors arriving at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport are pioneers in a “Special Tourist Visa” program formulated by Thai authorities to renovate a sector of the economy in phases. Thailand welcomed roughly around 40 million foreign visitors last year and tourism accounts for more than 10% of the country’s GDP.
Chinese tourists were a natural choice. Thailand remained one of the top overseas destinations for Chinese tourists in 2019, accounting for by far the largest number of visitors to Thailand by nationality.
However, visitors cannot freely wander around the country. The Special Tourist Visa has laid down stringent requirements.
Under the plan, which was first approved by the Thai Cabinet in September, foreign tourists who would stay for at least 30 days are issued 90-day visas that can be renewed twice. Post arriving, visitors need to stay in government-approved quarantine at a hotel or hospital for 14 days, and confirm that they have made arrangements for long-term accommodations. Visitors must also have special insurance policies and undergo pre-departure testing for the virus.
Foreign tourists also must download an official corona virus tracking application for use during their period of stay.
Members of the media were not allowed to meet with the arriving tourists.
At least two other flights from China are expected later this month, and Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports expects around 400 foreign visitors in early November.