How does 31 steps of paperwork, chartering a private aircraft, 14 days of mandatory quarantine at your own expense and then a blissful minimum 90 day Thai vacation sound, about now?
Oh, and you’ll need to prepay those 90 days of accommodations too.
If the effort, costs or time haven’t put you off, Thailand has a fantastic plan to reboot slowly and safely reboot tourism. If they have, you might need to wait a while. Here’s everything you need to know about Thailand’s wild and wacky plan to bring visitors back.
Update: Thailand has (slightly) improved the current visa process, including to tourists outside of Asia, and including the United States. Read up on the latest here.
Thailand’s 90 Day Visitor Visa
Travel is reopening at different paces in regions around the world. While Europe is open to select international visitors, the Pacific is largely off limits and may be for quite a while, and in Asia, travel is mostly regional only, if at all. It’s a mixed bag.
Thailand, one of Asia’s most tourism dependent nations is looking to bring visitors back with new 90 day special visitor visas, which can be extended up to two additional times, for up to 270 days exploring Thailand, and the visas may be available as early as October, 2020.
Before you pack your bags, don’t get too excited, yet.
Unlike other countries with relatively simple new covid-19 testing restrictions and varying degrees of quarantine, Thailand’s only current plan leaves much to be desired, and is cumbersome even by tax accountant standards.
The plans, clearly aimed at expats who winter in Thailand come after a variety of questionable ideas, including isolating all tourists on an island. As part of the 31 step process for a tourist to take advantage of the new Thailand STV visas, all potential visitors must…
- take out health insurance of at least $100,000 coverage
- pre-pay for 14 days of quarantine, an also all 90 days of accommodation.
- pass a “fit to fly” exam and provide covid-19 test within 72 hours of arrival.
- show evidence of charter or private flight to move from place to place.
Basically, if you want to visit Thailand in the near future, current plans require no less than 104 days of prepaid accommodation, health exams, a private jet, and last but not least, a tracing app or bracelet to monitor all subsequent movements. Here’s a look at each of the 31 steps, as highlighted by the Bangkok Post.
Is there a market for this? Apparently, but it’s certainly not “mass market”. Thailand’s cautious approach looks to be similar to digital nomad visas being offered by various countries, intending to attract people who will bring vital spending into neighborhoods for months on end, rather than a few nights at a time.
The special 90 day visa would effectively means visitors living more like locals than generic tourists, which data shows often makes a larger overall positive contribution to local economies, than travelers flocking to big chain hotels. Long stay guests are more likely to dine in local restaurants, shop in independent stores for goods and to utilize transit systems.
Nonetheless, these visitors, which Thailand intends to cap at 1,200 per month don’t do much to alleviate job concerns in Thailand’s robust hospitality sector. Whether arrivals spend 90 days post quarantine in hotels, houses or private apartments is entirely up to the visitor, and without mass market travel numbers, hotels, tour groups and other traditional travel industry jobs simply won’t exist.
It may be better than no tourism at all, which other Asian countries are grappling with, but not much.
Travelers already face a myriad of challenges in 2020 with constantly changing border restrictions, health concerns and uncertainty in financial markets. Thailand’s plans for travel tourism are perhaps better than nothing at all, but for a destination which last year required nothing more than booking a flight, it’s a difficult sell for many.