After Thailand postponed the re-opening of major locations to international tourism arrivals again, leading industry stakeholders accused the government of gambling away the country’s reputation (if there is any left at this point).
Tour operators, hotel owners, and industry investors complain that the government’s continual flip-flopping has caused them to lose global travel partners, and they have stopped presenting Thailand as a tourism destination owing to a lack of planning certainty.
While it is true that the situation with Covid is fluid, the handling of Thailand’s reopening has been unprofessional at best (save for the Phuket Sanbox), with far too many figures involved.
Thailand’s Prime Minister issued the marching orders for a reopening on October 1 months ago, but as we have reported in recent weeks, local leaders and the Covid Situation Council have decided to oppose him. October 1st became October 15th, and then November 1st — 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 COEs for Indian travellers and has also added them to the approved group to use the Phuket Sandbox). China is out since they are keeping the country securely wrapped at these locations and for the foreseeable future, including incoming and departing traffic.
However, such partners, and especially customers, demand one thing for their planning: dependability and security. You can’t organise flights, buy big numbers of hotel rooms, and book your annual leave 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 October 1 to November 1.
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: using the phrase to discuss anything 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 imprisoned for a week, let alone two weeks. Another troubling element is the cost of the accompanying testing, which is 8000 Baht ($240) for three PCR tests.
For many people, including me, 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.
The results of Phuket Sandbox have been mediocre at best. We are currently at the end of September, and the model has attracted 36,330 people as of today, for a monthly average of 12,000 since July.