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Thai tourism businesses unhappy over renewed delay to industry reopening

Thai tourism businesses unhappy over renewed delay to industry reopening
October 3, 2021

The Thai Government’s latest postponement of the re-opening of major locations to international tourism arrivals has left leading tourism industry stakeholders accusing authorities of gambling with the country's reputation.

Tour operators, hotel owners and industry investors are complaining that the Thai Government's frequent changes in reopening plans is causing them to lose global travel partners, with a drop in Thailand being presented as a tourism destination owing to a lack of planning certainty.

While it is true that the situation with COVID is fluid, many industry stakeholders feel that the handling of Thailand's reopening has been unprofessional - with the exception of the Phuket Sandbox - with far too many figures involved.

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha advised of orders for reopening on 1st October months ago, but as reported in recent weeks, local leaders and the Covid Situation Council have decided to oppose him.

1st October became 15th October, and then 1st November - with other stipulations attached.

This caused issues, particularly for the travel industry, which is strongly reliant on the impending high season and relies significantly on overseas marketing.

A large portion of business is generated by tour operators, who continue to market a variety of things such as flights, hotels, and local activities. Europe, Korea, Japan, and India are important markets (Thailand has just resumed issuing Certificates of Exemption for Indian travellers and has also added them to the approved group to use the Phuket Sandbox).

However, such partners, and especially customers, demand one thing for their planning: dependability and security as it is impossible to organise flights, buy big numbers of hotel rooms, and book visits to a place that is continuously moving back on its timeline, leaving the tourist with empty hands.

According to the Bangkok Post, local industry heavyweights in Thailand are growing irritated with the government and have vented following the latest postponement.

Confusion over reopening dates has harmed the tourist industry's chances of rebounding during the upcoming high season, as contradictory rules harm the country's credibility and overseas tour operators refrain from arranging packages until regulations are established.

The plan to reopen five areas - Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Hua Hin, and Phetchaburi - suffered another setback when the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) decided to postpone the start date from 1st October to 1st November.

This was the third postponement from an earlier reopening plan of mid-September for Pattaya, Hua Hin, and Chiang Mai, all owing to a vaccination shortage.

Yuthasak Supasorn, Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, stated that the CCSA's decision to cut the quarantine time for immunised travellers to seven days will assist boost tourism demand after the airport reopens.

Tourists must, however, undergo pricey RT-PCR testing throughout their stay because the Public Health Ministry does not wish to use antigen test kits for the second and third tests.

One thing is certain: ongoing COVID tests for tourists is a bad idea. To begin with, quarantine is a non-starter in terms of tourism. Nobody comes to Thailand (or any other nation) to be quarantined for a week, let alone two weeks.

Another troubling element is the cost of the accompanying testing, which is 8000 Baht (US$240) for three PCR tests.

For many people, including this author, the Phuket Sandbox has proven to be a convenient entry point. If your PCR tests are negative, you can book hotels at market prices, use your loyalty benefits, and move freely.

This means you can spend two weeks in Phuket for 25,000-30,000 Baht instead of spending twice as much in Bangkok for a great hotel and being locked up the entire time. Furthermore, hotels do not often upgrade ASQ guests, so if you want a suite for the two weeks, you must book one.

However, the results of Phuket Sandbox have been mediocre at best with, as of the end of September, only 36,330 people attracted, for a monthly average of 12,000 since July.
Joe Cusmano

Image: Beach on the Thailand's island of Phuket.

About the author

Joe Cusmano

An experinced airline and travel industry professional, Joe has over 25 years international airline sales experience of which 18 have been in senior positions in Australia, North Africa and Europe, Middle East and Thailand.

Committed to sharing news and personal experiences, he explains that, post-COVID, "once I resume travelling with people that like me are nomads by nature and love to travel, (I will) provide you with as much advice and tips to make your travel experience a memorable one."

Click here to visit his website.

Read more from this author

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