Thailand will gradually reopen its borders to foreign visitors vaccinated from November 1, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha said on Monday, as the kingdom seeks to save a tourism industry heavily hit by the pandemic.
As a first step, Thailand will accept tourists from ten “countries considered to be at low risk”, specified the head of government during a televisual address – in particular the United States, China, the United Kingdom, Germany and Singapore. The list may be extended in the coming months.
A negative test before departure and one on site
Visitors must present a negative Covid test on arrival and take a new one on site. “They will then be able to travel freely like the Thais”, welcomed the Prime Minister.
Until now, only the “sandbox” program allowed vaccinated tourists to go to the seaside resort of Phuket (south). But they were forced to stay for a week in a hotel on the island before they could venture to other parts of the kingdom.
A major sector of the Thai economy
Tourism accounted for a fifth of Thailand’s GDP before the pandemic. Tough restrictions on travelers to fight the virus have caused the number of foreign visitors to plummet. In 2020, arrivals plunged 83% to 6.7 million from a record 39.9 million in 2019.
As a result, Thailand posted its worst economic performance in more than two decades last year, losing around $ 50 billion in tourism revenue.
Contamination on the rise since spring
The country was relatively spared from Covid-19 in 2020. But since April, contaminations have skyrocketed: in total, more than 1.7 million cases and nearly 18,000 deaths have been recorded.
More than 30% of the population has received two doses of vaccines and the situation has tended to improve in recent weeks.