The Thailand Longstay Company is coordinating with some 200 potential tourists, who are set to be the first to travel to Phuket province, under measures against COVID-19, with the Ministry of Tourism and Sports viewing the group as a test of the so-called Phuket Model.
The Tourism and Sports Minister, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, said his office and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) are reviewing foreign cities and regions that have been free of COVID-19 for at least 28 days and are assessing demand for travel to Thailand, so that collaboration with those countries can be discussed. An important factor is also the testing process and integrity in foreign countries, those countries with better medical testing and procedures are more likely to be included.
The Phuket Model, to be used for such tourists, was conceptualized by Thailand Longstay Company, which is looking to bring 200 tourists to the southern province. Measures for such visitors will include requiring a medical certificate, issued within 72 hours of travel in the nation of origin and submitted to the local Thai embassy, and a 14-day alternative state quarantine at a high quality resort with certain amenities like private beach access and fine dining upon arrival. Travelers will be limited to the single province with a requirement that they enter another seven day quarantine if they wish to depart to another province those who test negative for COVID-19 after 21 days will be allowed to travel nationwide.
The Prime Minister and Defense Minister, Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha, suggested each region select a pilot province for trialing the model. He called for public agreement to build confidence. The exact provinces were not named by the Prime Minister, however, the Thai Tourism Authority has previously said that Koh Samui, Krabi, Koh Tao, the Phi Phi islands, Pattaya and Chiang Mai may also be considered to be included as part of the trial.
The Tourism and Sports Minister also commented on the We Travel Together program, which was recently expanded from five nights to 10 and from 1,000 baht for flights to 2,000 baht, saying spending power in the nation is currently reduced. So far, the program has only resulted in 500,000 rooms being booked from a target of 5 million. It has been suggested that large companies buy up the privileges and use them as rewards for employees. The Cabinet is to be asked to extend the program until the end of the year, rather than to only October, in support of the high season.
Additionally, the availability of a special visa to allow long stay tourists to stay up to nine months is also being discussed and has been proposed, according to sources familiar with the project and associated media. It is important to note, however, this is just a proposal.
It is worth noting, however, that just yesterday the spokeswoman for the Thai Government stated that “the doors would not be flung open on October 1st” and that the exact approvals and time-frames may take some time to develop. She stated that the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration would need to give final approval to any plan and that every precaution was being taken.
Meanwhile, leading Thai doctors have stated multiple times they are strongly against the plan, despite the current state of the economy in tourist related places, as they feel despite any precautions made there is still a strong chance a case escapes containment and causes a second Covid-19 outbreak which could potentially lead to even more devastating lock-downs and closures.
The plan to bring back foreign tourists has been approved in principle but is still just in proposal phase, the final portion will need the approval of the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA). However, the Prime Minister of Thailand, who visited the Chonburi and Rayong area later this week and saw first hand the devastation of the tourism industry, stated that getting back foreign tourists was a top priority.
Source: Thai National News Bureau with additional material from The Pattaya News team