Thailand Eyes November Tourism Arrivals Under Prison-Like Conditions, THAI Airways Plans To Operate 12 Flights Per Month

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The never ending saga about when Thailand is opening it’s borders and tourism sector again to restart the ailing economy is going into yet another chapter as the Prime Minister gave public support for new plans.

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

According to various news reports the country could welcome tourists as soon as November but under condition that sound more like a boot camp rather than a holiday.

Thai Airways has also chimed in saying they could operate up to 12 flights per month to transport foreign tourists to/from Thailand on authorized routes.

We have covered this entire development for several months now as travel to Thailand is usually the most popular destination choice in Asia and there are many fare sales in and out of Bangkok most of the time. All this means very little of course as long as the borders are closed.

The Bangkok Post reported today that the Prime Minister is now supporting to get tourists back to Thailand and is urging the public to think about their income as the government can’t afford to keep everyone afloat.

Thailand needs to attract foreign tourists back and have a welcoming system of disease control in place, so local people can start earning money again, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Wednesday.

The return of foreign visitors would begin with only a limited number of arrivals, to test the country’s disease control measures, which would be comprehensive, he said.

He sought to allay concerns that tourists could bring with them a new wave of coronavirus disease. Gen Prayut said the government would not let visitors arrive as they pleased.

“There will be forms to fill in. Flights must be traceable. When they reach their destinations their whereabouts will have to be confirmed and they will be isolated from others,” the prime minister said.

Gen Prayut said the return of tourists was essential for the country. “If nothing is done, things will get worse. Premises will be shut down. Employees will be laid off. How can the government afford to help them all?” he said. …

It’s probably starting to sink in for the key people that the countries economy is steadily heading to a really dark place if there are no measures taken sometime down the road to return to normality.

These words from the PM come because there is a strong consensus among the general population that the borders should not be reopened because the risks of importing the Coronavirus back into the country are simply too great. Thailand hasn’t had a locally transmitted Covid-19 case in over a 3 months and the only active cases in the country stem from repatriated Thais and those eligible for re-entry from overseas.

The plans for returning tourists aren’t all that rosy though:

… Areas highly damaged by the pandemic and in need of urgent relief will be prioritised, he said. He mentioned, for instance, the resort island of Phuket where people both agree with a proposal to let foreign tourists in and those who disagree. He said small groups of tourists will be allowed to come in under a sandbox concept (pilot project).

Under this concept, visitors will have to be tested for Covid-19 both before they leave their countries and upon arriving in Thailand, he said.

And when in Thailand, they will be required to stay only in areas designated for this tourism promotion programme to ensure their presence won’t compromise public health, he said. …

This is absolutely laughable. Who would voluntarily undergo such restrictive measures to be put up at some random, isolated resort? The pricing for this arrangement won’t be cheap either so that rules out most factors why tourists have so far found Thailand to be a worthwhile destination to visit: Affordability and flexibility. If someone wants to spend a lot of money then they go to the Maldives.

Thai Airways has apparently been tasked to develop a transport solution:

Chansin Treenuchagron, acting president of Thai Airways International Plc, said the company will arrange special chartered flights which will fly directly from Denmark, Germany, the UK, South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong to Phuket as part of efforts to support the government’s policy to boost domestic tourism after Covid-19 eases.

Flights are expected to begin in November, Mr Chansin said, adding that the company will operate two flights monthly on each route and will increase flights if demands increase.

Six destinations, two flights monthly. Thai tourism is saved, hallelujah! Aside from that Thai Airways is still in the early stages of it’s bankruptcy administration although they are operation some repatriation flights here and there.

The proposal is once again totally out of touch with reality. People go on holiday to relax and escape their stressful life. This solution doesn’t offer that, quite the opposite.

As I said before in another article about these tourism reopening plans I sometimes believe that all these plans are just a charade to show the government agencies are doing something and everything will fall apart short after.

The numbers proposed here aren’t even beginning to contribute a significant amount of revenue to the economy to help anyone. Maybe a few (well connected) hotel owners but that’s about it.

Here is a comparison for June of 2019 vs June 2020 in terms of foreign tourist arrivals and revenue provided by the Ministry of Tourism and Sports:

Download (PDF, 223KB)

These zeroes are pretty damning. In 2019, the number of tourist arrivals amounted to almost 40 million. This year?

  • January: 3,810,000
  • February: 2,060,000
  • March: 819,000
  • April onward: Zero!

These aren’t the type of numbers you can build a portfolio on when it comes to supporting the economy.

Conclusion

The majority of travelers, especially those from Asia (Korea, Japan) don’t even have 3-4 weeks vacation time to burn in order to make an arrangement like this work. Quarantine period plus additional few weeks for the actual holiday? Please.

Most nations included here have beach destinations of sorts available in their own country or continent (EU, USA, Japan) and there are plenty of other destinations such as the Maldives and Seychelles that offer a real luxury vacation without the hoops Thailands government is proposing here. Lets be honest, the country doesn’t have too many things going for it if you take affordability, ease of access and nightlife entertainment out of the consideration.

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