Thailand plans to reopen Bangkok to fully vaccinated visitors in October, officials said on Friday, as the kingdom seeks to save a tourism industry battered by the pandemic.
Before covid, tourism made up a fifth of Thailand’s national income, but severe travel restrictions imposed to combat the virus have seen the usual influx of foreign visitors shrink to next to nothing, contributing to the economy’s worst performance. in more than 20 years.
The kingdom continues with plans to reopen despite a deadly third wave of infections, driven by the delta variant.
Thailand’s Tourism Authority said that from October 1, fully stung foreign travelers will be able to visit Bangkok and four other provinces without undergoing a two-week hotel quarantine.
Instead, the five zones – also including the provinces of Chiang Mai, Chon Buri, Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan – are expected to follow a “sandbox” model of the type flown since July on the holiday island of Phuket.
As part of the sandbox system, tourists are required to stay in a certain area for seven days after arrival and pass covid tests.
Later in October, 21 more destinations will be added to the list, including Chiang Rai, Sukhothai and the famous Rayong beach getaway.
But Thailand’s deadliest third wave of covid has not yet fully subsided, and the tourism agency has warned that plans could change.
Thailand has gone through 2020 relatively unscathed by covid, recording a low number of infections, but since April the Delta variant has taken hold and cases have soared to more than 1.3 million, with nearly 14,000 deaths.
More than 29,000 fully vaccinated international visitors have reached Phuket beach as part of its sandbox program, generating nearly $ 50 million in revenue, according to government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana.
Three other Thai islands have also reopened – Samui, Tao and Phangan – with slightly more onerous restrictions.
One cloud hanging over Thailand’s tourism stimulus is travel advice from other countries discouraging potential tourists from visiting.
Britain and the United States have warned against travel to Thailand due to rising cases and low vaccination rates.
About 16% of the Thai population has received two doses of the coronavirus vaccine, the government Covid task force said.
© 2021 AFP