The Tourism Council of Thailand is floating around the idea that capitalizes on the expected arrival of the AstraZeneca vaccine next month by offering vaccine-inclusive travel packages to international tourists.
The government had announced Wednesday that an initial batch of 50,000 out of a total of 200,000 doses will be arriving next month as part of its agreement with AstraZeneca. This batch is ahead of the first batch of doses under the agreement of 26 million doses that will be produced locally by Siam Biotech.
That batch will only be available in May, after the last batch of 50,000 doses arrived from abroad.
According to TCT President Chamnan Srisawat, the packages that they are conceptualizing will include a vaccination cost as well as a 30-day stay in the Kingdom. 14 days of these days will be spent in mandatory quarantine in either an alternative state quarantine or alternative local quarantine facility of their choice.
The plan is meant to help attract more tourists once the vaccine is made available in Thailand, and help inbound tour operators, hospitality establishments and tourist destinations whose businesses were negatively affected as a result of the restrictions imposed by disease control measures.
Mr. Chamnan said that, under the plan, tour operators and hospitals can partner together in order to provide the vaccines for the international tourists. However, this is contingent upon the Thai Food and Drug Administration allowing the hospitals to reserve a huge number of vaccines in order for this to work.
The TCT President said that they are still considering the idea, and have to factor in several considerations like the actual availability of COVID-19 vaccines as well as the government’s approval of the idea.
Mr. Chamnan reiterated that mass global vaccinations are needed to fully ensure the safety of the travelers, and said that the tourism industry cannot stay afloat unless this is done.
He also reminded the government that the tourism industry is still in need of financial assistance from the government, as it is the hardest hit industry in all of Thailand in this ongoing pandemic.
However, other parties in the tourism industry are not as enthusiastic about the proposal.
Chotechuang Soorangura, associate managing director of NS Travel and Tours, said that Thai tour operators cannot market the country as a vaccine hub as, for now, the country cannot produce enough vaccines to inoculate the local population.
The country would be hard pressed to produce enough vaccines to vaccinate tourists who visit the country en masse.
In addition, he said that foreigners would rather be inoculated before departure in order to protect themselves against exposure while they are en route to their destinations.
He also said that there are still gray areas in rules that govern travel and vaccination in different countries of the world.
Alternatively, Mr. Chotechuang said, the government and tour operators should focus their efforts on marketing Thailand as “wellness destination” and a hub for medical tourists as they are more feasible.