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Goodbye Travel Bubbles, Hello ‘Safe & Sealed’ Tourists Restricted to 1 Province

Desperate tourism businesses hope to import 500K tourists by requiring tests, insurance and limiting movement

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With the future of international tourism uncertain, travel agents and tour operators are banding together to create a “safe and sealed” tourism campaign to attract foreign tourists back to Thailand, but restrict them to only one hotel or province.

The government earlier had begun negotiating “travel bubble” agreements with China, Japan and South Korea to allow tourists to arrive sometime before October. However, Thailand backed out of the deals after new outbreaks were reported in Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo. That led the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand to declare travel bubble negotiations “suspended indefinitely”.

Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, together with Tourism Authority of Thailand Gov. Yuthasak Supasorn, met with the Association of Thai Travel Agents Wednesday, during which the ATTA laid out its “Safe and Sealed” proposal.

Under the plan, the tourism industry will invite individuals from “safe” cities in other countries, or cities that have not recorded a Covid-19 infection in the past 30 days. Tourists will be able to enter Thailand without going through a 14-day quarantine, but will be “sealed” – or kept within the borders of the provinces they chose to visit.

To qualify, foreign nationals will have to secure a certificate showing a negative result in a Covid-19 test. The test must be taken at most 72 hours before the departure date in the flight tickets. They will also need to procure insurance and agree to coronavirus tests upon arrival at the airport.

For its part, the ATTA and other members of the private sector will seek out destinations and establishments like hotels that will agree to welcome tourists again from abroad.

The plan is similar to the earlier travel bubble agreements, but, in inking separate deals with separate cities, it allows for more flexibility and safety. By restricting visitors to one province, such as Phuket, the region could be locked down and sealed off if an outbreak occurs.

Yuthasak said that this is the industry’s major effort in trying to preserve businesses in the industry and keep them from going bankrupt due to the lack of revenues brought about by the emergency decree.

By restricting visitors to one province, such as Phuket, the region could be locked down and sealed off if an outbreak occurs.

ATTA President Vichit Prakobgosol and Thai Hotels Association Eastern Chapter president Phisut Sae-ku had earlier warned the government that there will be massive layoffs by the end of the year if international tourism is not resumed as soon as possible.

Mr. Vichit pointed out that, while there are now foreigners who can enter Thailand again, the number is not likely to reach 100,000 individuals and is not likely as well to generate the needed revenues to help the industry.

The “Safe and Sealed” tourism package aims to target 500,000 international tourists, and will raise 50 billion baht in revenue for the ailing tourism industry.

Yuthasak said that Phiphat will present the private sector’s plan to relevant government agencies. The minister will also work toward the establishment of a tourism fund from which tourism-related businesses can avail of soft loans to keep themselves afloat during the financial crisis.

Commercial banks and other financial institutions are currently hesitant to extend loans especially to small-and-medium enterprises due to the uncertainty brought about by the pandemic.