Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism has announced that the government is preparing to reopen Bangkok and other popular tourist destinations from November. The Tourism Ministry is betting that a vaccinated company will help attract more foreign visitors and jump-start Thailand’s struggling economy.
Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said the reopening of Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Cha-Am and Hua Hin, from October 1, would be inspired by the Phuket sandbox program.
The plan must, however, still be submitted to the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration for approval.
Bangkok is also part of this group, but its reopening will have to be postponed until November 1. Although, according to health department officials, 70 percent of the capital’s residents will have been fully immunized by the end of this month.
Vaccinations in adjacent provinces are still lagging behind, but are expected to reach 70% by the end of October.
Other destinations, including Chiang Rai, Koh Chang and Koh Kood, could reopen fully for visitors from mid-October, with travel bubbles planned with neighboring countries next year, their governors said.
Thai tourism is key to recovery
The push to end the pandemic-induced restrictions on tourists is part of the new ‘living with Covid-19’ strategy amid a raging epidemic that seeks to keep infections at a level that does not overwhelm its health system.
Countries, from Singapore to Indonesia and the Philippines, are tweaking their policies to deal with the endemic nature of the epidemic to protect livelihoods and prevent their economies from prolonging a slump.
For Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, reviving tourism is a key priority as it contributed about a fifth of the country’s gross domestic product in 2019, the year before the pandemic.
One of the key criteria for Thai tourist sites to waive the quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated tourists is a local vaccination rate of 70%.
Phuket became the first province to achieve this goal and reopened in July, with the program expanding to neighboring islands and seaside communities last month.
The government said its so-called Phuket Sandbox was a success and the program would be followed across the country.
More than 26,000 vaccinated travelers used the sandbox in the first two months, generating 1.6 billion baht in tourism revenue, Phuket officials said. Less than 1% of visitors have tested positive for the virus even though local infections have increased.
Thailand has fully vaccinated about 14% of its population, while 35% have received their first vaccines. Most of the tourist destinations chosen for reopening already have vaccination rates higher than the national average and are expected to boost the level further as vaccine availability increases, health ministry officials said.