boats in the water with a couple of boats

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.

a row of gold statues in a temple

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
a multicolored building with blue sky

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

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Only in Thailand can this type of behaviour go unpunished “. Was a bad idea from the opening bell,Believe the destinations Phuket Buriram and another charging explicit fees for a STV was always going to fail. Why would these Chinese tourists act as guinea pigs ‘ the supposedly 300 arriving will be much less after the fact they’ve already lost several thousand pounds by a uneducated thai government who’ve thrown ideas around like confetti at a birthday bash,. Very little thought goes into their planning and more often than not it comes back and bites them in the ass 🙈 thanks for the updates left Thailand in June ‘ sadly can’t get back until restrictions are lifted

  2. Why do we need to go to this third world country and prepay lots of things and being quarantined?! Until they come back to normal and cancel all these ridiculous requirements we the Americans will not travel there.

    1. I totally agree that the Thai authorities should not have done this, and that it is a pure theft, yes. But that “third world” remark from “Kent” guy is uncalled for, unjustified, and in the same line as in the racist comments that I’ve heard over the years. You think that the “third world countries” in Asia should just be grateful for and accept any American tourists trying to come in with this virus going around? Without even quarantine? Look what’s going on in US right now. Thousands of new cases every day, and people are offended because of quarantine? Countries have their own rights to set rules for tourists trying to enter, just like your own, and yes, they do include Asia. Get over it. You might think Asia is a bunch of poor, uneducated countries, but look what’s coming out of your mouth. Who’s uneducated now?

      And yes, I was counting on this STV, I was willing to pay money and put in effort and time for it. I have to say I am extremely disappointed by their decision against any refund.

    2. “We the Americans!”. Lol. Like people care if you obnoxious seppos visit their country or not. You mentioned the term Third World. Are you referring to the US, The Plague States Of America?

  3. Due to fly to Thailand soon with Qatar. Qatar has a generous policy and I think I will take the future travel voucher plus 10% rather than booking for next year. I cannot see Thailand opening up in 2021 in any meaningful way.

  4. Utterly shameless and an outright scam. Create a scheme and take people’s hard earned money. Then cancel it and not give their money back is pure theft.

  5. The careless often harsh Jungle mentality extends deeply into Thai politics as here is Cleary in evidence. Why can’t they ask for a test result upon departure/arrival and another after 7/14 days +obligatory social distancing and obligatory facial masks.. It worked in Italy very well. If they do not take immediate action The Thai economy will implode with a loud bang with no mercy for those good Thai business s that so heavily depend on the tourist buck.

    1. Not really. The locals who utterly depend on tourism to survive will be desperate. Not enough locals visiting the islands. It’s a very sad situation, which could have been dealt with by simply testing before boarding, on arrival, and at day 5 whilst remaining in isolation at their hotel. Was due to go early November for a month. Will rebook for next year hopefully when it’s under better control.

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