October 28, 2020

Thailand’s new ‘Special Tourist Visa’ offers simple 25-step solution to restarting travel

The Land of Smiles is grinning and bearing ahead with its plan to welcome tourists back to its shores in October – but there’s a catch, or 25.

A recently released infographic plots out all the hoops potential visitors will have to jump through before being allowed anywhere near the country, from submitting a visa application to four different branches of the Thai Government, to agreeing to a mandatory 14-day quarantine in an ASQ (Alternative State Quarantine) hotel, to health checks, Covid tests, insurance requirements, and a minimum stay of 30 days.

“The new, and rather complicated, visa scheme announced by the Thai authorities will do little to increase the number of tourists to Thailand,’ said Tim Milner, director of Bamboo Travel. “It may work for back-packers, or retirees hoping to see out the winter in Thailand, but it will not instill the confidence needed to entice normal tourists back to Thailand. In short it is simply not practical to impose a 14-day quarantine on holidaymakers who can ill afford to take a month’s holiday at a time.”

To Britons and other Europeans who have been able to fly around the continent relatively freely for the last few months, this might seem like a lamentable process but Thailand’s borders have been sealed to all but a handful of foreign visitors since late March.

The move helped to protect the country while the virus wreaked havoc elsewhere around the globe. To date, Thailand has recorded 3,516 cases of Covid-19 and 59 deaths among a population of nearly 70 million, a response that the World Health Organisation has recognised as one of the best.

It’s an achievement Thailand is reluctant to tarnish by reopening its borders too soon.

Public fears of foreigners re-importing the virus also remain high but with the Thai tourist industry all but obliterated – 2.5 million people working in tourism are in line to lose their jobs by end of the year with thousands of people in Phuket alone currently relying on food donations – the pressure is on to find a way for international visitors to return. 

To make the prospect of quarantining more tempting, the Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT) have suggested the process will be ’14 days of fun’, with a plan to deliver the delights of Thailand to people’s rooms through virtual yoga, meditation, cooking lessons and Thai language classes. The TAT is also encouraging approved hotels to arrange real life activities, such as live music shows which guests could enjoy from their rooms.

The first STV visitors are expected to arrive from Europe in October on specially chartered flights and could potentially stay for up to 270 days, but it’s hard to imagine there will be a high uptake.

A poll conducted by the TAT’s London office suggested only six per cent of British tourists would be willing to spend two weeks in quarantine on arrival.

“We can’t see this creating any increased demand,” said Simon Lynch, director of sales at Scott Dunn, which offers holidays to Thailand. “The proposal is incredibly complex and will be off putting to guests looking for an easy getaway in a time where travel has become more of a task than a joy.”

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