With a mere 31 steps, mandatory 90 plus days of prepaid accommodation, travel insurance, charter flights needed to move around the country and a variety of other obstacles, receiving one of Thailand’s “special tourist visas” was never going to be easy – or cheap.
Now, the program has been scrapped, or postponed indefinitely, just hours before the first visitor arrivals were scheduled to land. It’s an unceremonious end to a disastrous campaign aimed at rebooting foreign tourism in Thailand. And no, there won’t be any refunds.
Thailand Scraps ‘STV’ Visitor Visas
Thailand expected to welcome the first visitors entering the country under the new “Special Tourist Visa” (STV) program this week, with 300 initial visitors from China. After a gander at the requirements to submit an application, it’s incredible that there were any applicants at all.
Due to delays in implementing ‘necessary’ procedures to safely welcome the special tourist visitors, that won’t be happening, and the program is now scrapped indefinitely, for the time being.
The first ‘STV’ participants, scheduled to be 300 visitors from China, were required to pre-pay 14 days of quarantine hotel in Phuket, hefty visa fees and at least 90 days of accommodation elsewhere to become eligible for the visa, and in a stunning rebuke to future tourism, Thai Authorities say no refunds will be offered.
The plan was the latest in a series of strange, very ‘Thai’ tourism ideas, which involved everything from isolating tourists on islands with ankle bracelets to offering staggering discounts to draw visitors back.
Officials in Phuket said unforeseeable delays in the preparation of facilities, tracking measures and other obstacles must result in the suspension of the Special Tourist Visa program, according to Thailand’s Khaosod News. Officials however feel “confident” in getting the program back on track before the end of the year, despite refusing to offer a reboot date. They just won’t be offering any refunds to the first 300 visitors, since the terms and conditions specified refunds may not apply.
“The batch of tourists expected for tomorrow can’t come because we haven’t worked out all the details to receive them,”Narit Kanjanopas, Ministry of Tourism
Asia Begins Tourism Reopening
Asia, despite being one of the most cautious regions to reopen to foreign tourists is indeed beginning to reopen, but Thailand’s repeated failures to create sustainable or inviting measures create a crisis of confidence which may create years of ripple effect. People simply won’t book travel to a destination almost sure to change the game.
Singapore has instead created steadfast new ‘Travel Bubble’ Programs with a variety of countries, aimed at creating measures which won’t need to be reneged or cancelled at a moments notice. The ‘Travel Bubbles’ require covid-19 testing, self health monitoring and visas in advance of arrival.
Japan has also laid out a multi phased plan which welcomes back visitors with first priority to business travelers, then students and finally, short tourist arrivals. Tourists are expected to be welcomed back to Japan by April, 2021. The Maldives was among the first to reopen to international visitors, with a covid-19 test required prior to all departures.
When will you be able to visit Thailand? Unless you’re planning to join the next wave of STV visitors, whenever that may be, it’s hard to expect any time soon. There’s nothing quite like visiting Thailand, quirks included, but this isn’t a positive indication.
HT: Loyalty Lobby