In March 2020, the Thai government had decided to completely close the Kingdom’s borders in order to protect itself against the possible spread of the Covid virus. With the closure of the borders, the government was knowingly taking the risk of depriving the Kingdom of its biggest resource: tourism.

By 2019, the tourism and travel sector had brought in $106.5 billion for Thailand, more than 20% of its GDP. The spending of foreigners in the country was thus close to 20% of the volume of exports… And yet, at the time, the government was loudly assuring that Thailand had to get out of this too big…

In March 2020, the Thai government had decided to completely close the Kingdom’s borders in order to protect itself against the possible spread of the Covid virus. With the closure of the borders, the government was knowingly taking the risk of depriving the Kingdom of its biggest resource: tourism.

By 2019, the tourism and travel sector had brought in $106.5 billion for Thailand, more than 20% of its GDP. The expenses of the foreigners in the country thus approached 20% of the volume of exports… And yet, at the time, the government assured loud and clear that Thailand had to leave this too great dependence on tourism.

A vision certainly tinged with arrogance. Because the disappearance of 40 million foreign tourists has proved to be a real cataclysm. 18 months after the beginning of the pandemic, we have to admit that the country’s economy is in agony. Unemployment is rising sharply, despite the fact that people working in tourism are not included. Experts estimate that growth in 2021 should hardly exceed 1%. This is the fourth downward revision of the Kingdom’s growth prospects.

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A too late and too slow vaccination has further delayed the opening of the borders with a strong increase in cases of covid since mid-April.

So there is only one solution: to reopen the country as soon as possible. The authorities have developed a four-step plan that will give hope to the population, restart the economic machine and also satisfy the millions of travellers eager to return to the Kingdom. For the moment, experts estimate that the Kingdom could only receive 380,000 tourists over the whole year 2021. A figure equivalent to what tourism was around 1960!

The return of foreign tourists becomes urgent

The condition is to reach a complete vaccination rate of 70% of the population. We are still far from it. According to the barometer of the vaccination rate by country of the University of Oxford, 42% of the Thai people had received a first dose of vaccine and 23% had a complete cycle of vaccination at September 27. Phuket, which reopened inIn July, the government announced that it would reopen the country to tourists under strict conditions, with higher vaccination coverage, as apparently seen in Bangkok (see graph). Plans to reopen six provinces to vaccinated travellers have been postponed until October 15, with the exception of Krabi in the south. The latter will welcome international tourists from this weekend.

For the other five provinces, which include Bangkok, the northern city of Chiang Mai and the seaside resorts of Pattaya and Hua Hin, the possibility of returning without forced quarantine should begin on November 1. The date seems to be confirmed for now according to Yuthasal Supasorn, the governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand TAT.

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Vaccinated tourists should only undergo a 7-day isolation period in the hotel of their choice with two PCR tests on site. This period was about 14 days until now. The non-vaccinated would be forced to undergo a quarantine period of between 10 and 14 days depending on the mode of transport. About 20 other provinces would then be reopened on November 15 and December 1.

However, one problem remains: the very high cost of PCR tests billed at 200 euros in Thailand, as well as the acquisition of Covid insurance covering expenses equivalent to 100,000 US$. Two elements that explain the relative failure of the reopening of Phuket to international tourism. Only 33,000 people took advantage of this offer at the end of September.

Bangkok should however attract more travellers, including business travellers and MICE organisers who are keen on the Thai metropolis. The city will be back to much of its usual activity as of October 1, with all cafes, bars, cinemas, theatres and some conference venues reopening.