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Thailand Elite Targets Expats Looking for ‘Virus Haven’
Published: August 17, 2020 at 2:13 pm
Thailand Elite offers membership to expats already in the country who are seeking a safe haven.
Photo By: Richard Barton
Thailand Elite, the Thai government’s visa program for affluent foreigners looking to stay long-term in the Kingdom, is shifting its focus from targeting nationals from abroad to expatriates who are currently staying in Thailand but are looking to stay long-term.
This move is a response to the current pandemic and the travel lockdown that remains in place in Thailand for international travel.
Thailand Elite is a premium visa service that offers a single-entry stay of up to one year to its enrollees. Members get to skip long immigration queues, as well as save time that would otherwise be spent mired in bureaucracy as they attempt to obtain visa extensions every 60 to 90 days.
Members also enjoy a long-term visa validity of five years, which they can renew as well. They also get to enjoy exclusive perks including luxury limousine transport upon arrival or for departure, charter services, annual medical checkups and complimentary use of high-class golf courses in Bangkok, Phuket and Pattaya.
According to Somchai Soongswang, president of the Thailand Privilege Card Co., the company is turning its eyes on foreigners who are already in the country but are seeking a safe haven against the COVID-19.
Since the start of the pandemic, the company has seen a significant growth in new members. Roughly 70% of these enrollees are expats who are already in Thailand.
In addition, despite the tight border controls imposed by the emergency decree, Thailand Privilege Card Co. is expecting 2,288 new members from September onwards.
As for future plans, Mr. Somchai said the company is looking to market and gain more members by 2021, when they expect less stringent border rules that could herald the return of foreign tourism. They will also be targeting potential members in Hong Kong and Australia, he added.
Mr. Somchai expressed confidence in the company’s market, stating that there are a number of foreigners abroad who will want to seek out a “virus haven” and Thailand is one of the top choices.
Thailand is currently the #1 country in terms of recovery, edging out former #1 country, New Zealand, which remains in the top 10 but is currently in #6.
The country boasts of a 94% recovery rate in its cases, and a 5% death rate.
It has also seen no local transmission of the COVID-19 since May. While the Kingdom continues to record new cases, these are from locals who have returned home from various countries abroad.
The country, which has relied heavily on exports and foreign tourism in the past, has suffered a recession with the borders closed to foreigners and international air travel.
Several businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic. Tourism operators in the private sector are seeking the government’s help in acquiring loans to keep themselves afloat, and in generating the needed revenues by reopening foreign tourism as soon as possible.
The government has made available a stimulus package to boost domestic tourism while foreign tourism remains at a standstill. Efforts are being made to slowly ease lockdowns and allow the return of foreign tourists, but there is still no definite date for the reopening.