More than half a year after Thailand started to lock down their borders to all international arrivals the country just saw the first group of Chinese Tourists arrive in Bangkok under the STV Special Tourist Visa scheme.
There is ongoing controversy about Thailand STV Visa program which undergoes constant amendments and still faces backlash among the local population if foreign tourists should be allowed to enter the country at all.
Another contentious issue is that Chinese tourists are among the first of those foreigners allowed back into the country since it was them who originally brought the virus to Thailand early this year.
I first wrote about Thailand’s STV Visa in early September when the plan was first introduced and then again two weeks ago when the Thai government pulled the plug in the last minute citing readiness as the reason.
There are a bunch of strings attached to this visa such as prepaid accommodation for the first three months, the obligatory and costly 14 day quarantine post arrival as well as a chartered or private flight among other hurdles.
It’s seen as a first step after the tourism sector has crashed following Thailand’s border closure mid March although the numbers and methods proposed under this scheme seem once again alien to what attracts tourists to the country but it could be a niche for those who really want to max out this visa and stay almost a year.
So far there have been very limited options available for foreign individuals who want to stay in Thailand long term.
As the Bangkok Post reported 39 Chinese nationals have now arrived from Shanghai in Bangkok and a further 100 are scheduled to arrive from Ghuangzhou.
Thirty-nine Chinese tourists arrived in Bangkok by air on Tuesday, marking the return of foreign tourists to Thailand after a seven-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The tourist group from Shanghai, which entered the country under the newly created special tourist visa, will undergo 14 days of quarantine at facilities in the capital before setting off to its destination.
Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said the majority of the tourists, who are allowed to stay in Thailand for a total of 30 days, have voiced their desire to hit the beaches after quarantine ends.
But to be cleared to travel inside the country, the tourists must test negative for the virus twice. All of them must also install a tracking app on their smartphones.
A second group of around 100 tourists will arrive in Bangkok from Guangzhou in southern China on Monday, to be followed by more from China and some countries from Europe, Mr Yuthasak said. …
There has been some talk about if these individuals are really tourists or are coming to the country for other reasons. It’s also interesting that they will stay for “a total of 30 days” apparently including their quarantine. The picture of the group doesn’t appear like typical tourists either and one wonders how long they truly end up staying.
In local Thai media there have been various versions of the true nature of those in this first group ranging from being a Thai Tourism Authority (TAT) stunt to them being “investors” coming to go on a buying spree of local property and companies at a market low to them being travel agents setting up future tour business.
Whatever the reason behind these first arrivals may be, general commentary in articles and online posts hasn’t been great and with this I only count what I read from local Thai people, not other foreigners who are disgruntled that others are allowed to be in the first group to be allowed back. It’s safe to say that there isn’t great love for Chinese in Thailand at the moment as they’re largely blamed for the bad economy.
Thai Embassies abroad have now started to take applications for both the STV and also regular tourist visas again. This includes countries like Finland and Switzerland.
The planning and execution of this STV and the restart of the Thai tourism sector has been pretty much a disaster. There have been tons of policies and plans which all ended up discarded for being impractical or too risky.
Eventually Thailand will need to figure something else out because this driplet therapy of tourists coming in one by one isn’t doing anything for the economy. Right now all hopes are tied to a vaccine which (god willing) is expected by mid 2021 in the best of circumstances. I wouldn’t expect visa free, large volume travel to Thailand returning before a vaccine has been made widely available. Add to that the political turmoil that’s gripping Bangkok at the moment.