With the arrival of the first Special Tourist Visa holders last Tuesday, Thailand is set to slowly reopen the country to foreign tourism.
This will help to revitalize the country’s economic, which has been brought to a standstill by the COVID-19 pandemic. With tourism being a major contributor the country’s gross domestic product, reopening foreign tourism is a must in order for Thailand to recover.
The STV program aims to bring in tourists from countries considered by Thailand as low risk, like China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
In order to entice foreigners from low risk nations, the government is mulling the so-called “wellness quarantine” scheme and Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul said that he is in support of the plan.
Under the planned program, tourists from low-risk countries will be able to avail of wellness activities like spa and massage during their 14-day quarantine.
Members of the private sector as well as foreigners themselves have been apprehensive of the 14-day quarantine due to its length and lack of activities to entertain tourists while cooped up in their alternate state quarantine accommodation.
In addition to availing of spa and massage services, tourists will also be able to play golf if there are nearby facilities for them to book a game with.
Mr. Anutin assured the public that the government as well as hotel management will continually monitor quarantined tourists and make sure public health and safety measures are observed, like social distancing and the wearing of face masks.
The Health Minister said spa, massage and golf operators are welcome to apply for the program within the next 30 days.
Mr. Anutin also revealed yesterday that the government is considering lowering the number of quarantine days from 14 to 10 days. He said that the government’s decision is contingent upon the “success” of the first groups of tourists to come to Thailand under the STV.
The measure will also need the approval of the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration, he told members of the press.
The announcement came soon after the arrival of 39 tourists from Shanghai via a chartered flight that landed in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport on Tuesday.
All of these tourists are now in alternate state quarantine, and have tested negative in their first COVID-19 test.
They will undergo two more COVID-19 tests before they are released from quarantine.
Another group of tourists, also from Shanghai, will be arriving on October 26 via a Thai Airways chartered flight. The flight will also bring in medical tourists as well as Thais who want to come home from China.
Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said that the successful arrival of the first STV tourists is a good sign of impending economic recovery, after 7 months of lockdown due to the pandemic.
A group of tourists that were meant to arrive in Phuket on October 8 are still pending a new date of arrival after Phuket’s authorities requested that priority be given to domestic tourists coming to the island to celebrate the annual Vegetarian Festival.