Thai Tourism Authority Draws Up Blueprint For Tourism Revival During Covid Times

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It’s common knowledge that Covid-19 has taken a terrible toll on tourism economies worldwide and now the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has drawn up a plan how to get back on track after the pandemic hopefully flattens out.

Thailand has been working on a range of Tourism related proposals in the last year or so and their directions change constantly.

Right now there is still a general ban on foreign arrivals in place which are gradually eased, first allowing those foreigners with work permits and family (marriage) visas back into the country and a clearance certificate from a Thai Embassy abroad is required.

There is currently no schedule to allow tourists back into the country and even those expats that are allowed will be required to undergo a 14 day quarantine measure at a local hotel on their own expense. Capacity for this is low however.

This week the TAT has published their blueprint for a way forward.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is moving quickly to draft strategy to support the Royal Thai Government’s third phase of easing business activities and restrictions after its most recent announcement on Monday, 1 June, which is effective immediately.

The relaxation helps some tourism-related businesses while other venue operators must wait and continue to follow guidelines issued by the Department of Health, Ministry of Public Health. Moreover, all international flights to Thailand are still banned until 30 June, 2020, due to the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT)’s announcement. …

PHASE ONE

To begin with TAT has identified basic truths of the new reality moving forward: To restart, the tourism industry must be under disease control measures until a vaccine is developed to prevent this disease. This will affect and change all behaviour and patterns of traditional travel and tourism activities starting from the aviation experience.

The Thai tourism industry has proved incredibly resilient over the years surviving countless negative experiences, but this time is the different because it is not only a domestic event, it is worldwide affecting valuable inbound international tourist markets.

Everything has to change to survive, and that is contingent on highly effective and adaptable disease control measures. Tourists must be provided every assistance, so they can protect themselves and also help protect others by preventing the spread of the virus to others.

Only the strongest will travel as tourists focus more on their health and safety. This means Gen Y or Millennials are expected to be the first to come back during any recovery period. Services must be adjusted to serve this group; who are self-assured, have high standards, expect new innovations to combat the health situation, and are concerned for family and friends once back home.

The so-call ‘new normal’ for Thai tourism focusses on less travelling, smaller gatherings, avoiding crowds and touching during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

While domestic tourism is slowly recovering with many Thais and foreigners flocking to the resorts in Hua Hin, other parts of the country are slowly opening with different regulations for quarantine , for example Chiang Mai requires foreigners to undergo a 14 days quarantine while Thai travelers from the same origin can roam free.

Hotels in Bangkok are opening at a slow but steady pace, it’s easy to see when using apps for various brands such as Hyatt, Hilton and Marriott how many hotels are currently open or plan to do so in the near future.

What the TAT is most concerned about however is international tourism.

They produced the following graphics:

Tourists that would eventually arrive will also have to deal with electronic tracking if TAT has their way:

Maybe I’m old fashioned but all this has very little to do with a relaxing overseas holiday which I’d expect when traveling all the way from other countries, let alone other continents.

This would however only kick in when Phase 2/3 come into play:

PHASE TWO and THREE

This begins once operational level products are functioning and a proper reduced carrying capacity is established so phase two can commence after international flights are allowed again. The ‘new normal’ of tourism will be promoted on the basis of safety and hygiene by:

International tourists coming to Thailand should not travel from or have lived in ongoing local transmission areas. They should not have a history of being in close contact with any probable or confirmed cases. A medical certificate is also required to be presented. There are restrictions on travelling abroad for Thai people due to the inbound and outbound limitation measures of Thailand and other countries around the world.

Promoting tourism in each province and to neighbouring provinces or provinces with no reported cases in the form of neighbour tourism. Promoting a revisiting campaign with cultural activities, activities for health, and the beauty of natural attractions. The number of tourists has to be limited to avoid congestion.

Once arriving in Thailand, tourists are required to undergo the COVID-19 rapid test screening process for reconfirmation, and then depart for a sealed area without making any stops.

While staying in Thailand, tourists are required to install and use a tracking application on their smartphone for the safety and protection of travelling in and out of sealed areas.

Reports in Thai local media have said that there was malware detected on phones that recently had the Thai Chana App installed which is being used to “check in” at shopping malls and restaurants all over the country. I’m no technology expert but I’m at the same time not big on installing any such app on my main mobile phone. Maybe an old or throwaway device.

TAT expanded their ideas:

The TAT Governor said, “Encouraging international tourists to travel to Thailand must be affordable by subsidising hotels and tour operators, so that they in turn can reduce the price of tickets for transportation and accommodation for international tourists and fuel a sustainable, long-term recovery.”

Other measures include but are not limited to buying COVID-19 insurance to boost confidence among international tourists.

Support the provision of money incentives to airlines and tour operators to use in public relations or conducting tourism marketing. The incentives can be also used with influencers to promote tourism traffic into and in Thailand.

Collect tax from outbound Thai tourists to enhance domestic tourism while also exempting the visa application fee at embassies or consulates, including visa-on-arrival application fee, and set a compensation budget for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Immigration Bureau. Extend the night-time curfew in areas with international tourists to stimulate the night-time economy.

Through marketing communications and creating positive feelings among the tourism industry while reducing xenophobia after reopening the country, spread goodwill with projects like ‘Welcome Superheroes to Thailand’ for medical personnel around the world and avoid activities, which might lead to the recurrence of the COVID-19 transmission.

So their idea last month was to target wealthy tourists but now they made a 180 to provide subsidies and discount hotels as well as tour activities. That’s commendable, at least a bit of reality has finally set in.

The COVID-19 insurance should come in the form of a proper, valid travel/medical insurance that covers all treatment including possible Covid-19 cases. Travelers should have to present this in writing to their airline at check-in and if asked to the immigration officer. Going through an insurance sales process at the airport is impractical for reasons I mentioned in my previous article.

Where it gets muddy is that on one hand TAT wants to have “smaller gatherings, avoiding crowds and touching” while then promoting to “extend the night-time curfew in areas with international tourists to stimulate the night-time economy”. Sort of contradictory if you ask me.

Taxing and thereby punishing Thai nationals for traveling abroad is simply a bullying measure designed to curb their own citizens. Totally unfair and unacceptable!

Then they want to invite “medical staff from around the world” while at the same time saying that “travelers should not have a history of being in close contact with any probable or confirmed cases” which pretty much excludes all medical workers.

Conclusion

Obviously the Tourism Department needs to do something and develop plans on how to get out of this situation but throwing out policies that go into totally different directions isn’t really helping anyone. Just a few weeks ago they wanted to initiate a tourism tax which was an absolutely stupid idea.

For all intents and purposes the likelihood that Covid-19 will be eradicated is low and this all has to be put in proportion to what travelers are willing to undergo in order to travel for a few days or weeks to certain countries.

My thinking is that as a EU citizen I’d rather just stay on the continent and visit some place in Europe instead of jumping through hoops just to satisfy some overseas countries stringent entry requirements for the purpose of a quick holiday. The same goes for U.S. or Canadian citizens as the country is really large enough to engage in domestic tourism which – as much as I love international travel – is sometimes a beautiful thing to do. I’m keeping a look on what is going on here in Asia the next few months but I don’t expect much movement tourism wise until the fall or even winter – if we’re lucky.

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