There’s no doubt that life during the pandemic brings unprecedented challenges and risks. But for tourism dependent countries, creating goal posts which are safe enough, but stable enough to attract visitors, has been the name of the game. Thailand, despite being heavily tourism dependent, still can’t get it right.
After luring in bookings and future trips with news of reduced quarantine for visitors, and shorter quarantine for vaccinated visitors, all in preparation for the introduction of quarantine free travel to Phuket, the country has changed its mind, again. People aren’t thrilled.
Thailand’s Visitor Protocol Changes
Thailand had been readying to welcome vaccinated visitors to Phuket by July, without any quarantine requirements. This would mark the first opportunity for outsiders to enter without being confined to a hotel room.
There’s still some minute chance that could come true, but in the interim the country is leaving travelers livid, with yet another change to entry restrictions.
Thailand made overnight changes, without any advanced warning, to end the shortened quarantine, vaccinated or not, and is returning to a full 14 day quarantine for all arrivals.
This means all travel arrivals from May 6th, just a week away, will land to a bill for a longer stay, and up to another week before they can get out and enjoy the country. All visitors are required to enter a prepaid supervised hotel quarantine.
The country is dealing with increasing covid-19 cases, particularly in hotspots including Bangkok, as all too slow rollout of vaccine continues and faith in the Thai Government to manage the crisis dwindles.
For the past six weeks, Thailand allowed a 7 day quarantine for vaccinated travelers and 10 for all non vaccinated visitors. With jet lag, 7 days wasn’t all that bad, and many travelers eager to return to the country booked trips on that basis.
The news has left travelers who were willing to to endure the 7 to 10 day quarantine, but not 14, scrambling to cancel non-refundable trips. It’s hard to see how quarantine free travel to Phuket would begin in just two months time, given the knee jerk change.
How Can Thailand Get It This Wrong?
Other tourism dependent nations are rapidly opening up, with either zero, or reduced quarantine for all vaccinated visitors, and exceptions for travelers who test negative.
They’ve done so by pushing advanced technology to validate travel documents – and by diligently working to vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. But most importantly, they’ve set hoops, however difficult, and kept the goal posts there.
Vaccinated travelers pose little to no risk to local populations, based on all studies available, yet do provide meaningful opportunity to the 300,000,000 people employed in tourism related businesses globally.
The Maldives has remained open since July, with a negative PCR test required before travel and has now fully vaccinated nearly the vast majority of its population. It’s done so well, vaccine on arrival will be offer to tourists as an enticement.
Hong Kong and Singapore will open their travel bubble in the weeks to come, while Australia and New Zealand managed to launch their own as well. Taiwan will welcome vaccinated travelers with a reduced quarantine from mid-May as well. Europe is full steam ahead with quarantine free travel for vaccinated travelers or those with a PCR test proving to be virus free.
Yet in Thailand, plans keep changing to the detriment of travelers. Newly announced local lockdowns mean any visitors would have little to do anyway. Eventually, it could quash future interest in visiting the country at all.
Rumors of widespread corruption and backhand deals with hotels, said to be enjoying the fixed rate 14 day visitors as part of the lengthened quarantine requirement, are a part of the problem, and mismanagement of vaccination drives is also said to play a large part.
It’s hard to recommend making any plans to Thailand right now. Requirements are changing too rapidly, are impossible to predict and draconian measures in place risk any joy in visiting. Visitors aiming for a quarantine Phuket holiday in July are doing so with blind faith, at least for now.
GSTP’s Thailand travel hub will keep you up to date with any future changes, as the country continues its wild and wacky ride to no visitors, and little demand. 14 days of quarantine may be better than 31 wacky steps just to apply to enter, but for fully vaccinated travelers with joyous opportunity elsewhere, it’s probably not enough.