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TAT Blows More Hot Air Into Failed ‘Travel Bubble’ Idea

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The Tourism Authority of Thailand on Friday resurrected the idea of forming “travel bubbles” with Asian countries with low Covid-19 infection rates, including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

TAT Deputy Gov. Thanet Petchsuwan said offices across the region have been tasked with promoting Thailand as a holiday destination to fully vaccinated Asian tourists, as data from the Phuket “sandbox” and Samui Plus tourism schemes indicate the number of Asian tourists is lower than arrivals from Europe and the U.S.

Thanet said he will talk to the new Chinese ambassador to Thailand about the possibility of allowing Chinese citizens to travel abroad, while the TAT is also preparing for talks with South Korea to launch a tourist-exchange program, or travel bubble, without the need for quarantine.

The agency is considering the timing and procedures for the program’s launch, once the Covid-19 situation in Thailand improves.

In addition, TAT will ask other regional countries, such as Singapore, to help reduce the expense of 14-day quarantine for its nationals returning from Thailand.

Thailand first started talking about “travel bubbles” – bilateral agreements between “safe” coronavirus countries to allow tourism without quarantine – in June last year – back when TAT laughably predicted foreign tourists would return by October 2020.

The idea died quickly, with aviation officials postponing them indefinitely and the foreign minister chiming in later that they “could wait”.

Over the next year, a steady parade of failed marketing ideas and slogans followed, with “safe & sealed” replacing bubbles and, finally, Phuket’s “sandbox” getting filled.

TAT’s pie-in-the-sky hopes aside, Asia has little interest in travel bubbles now, amid new lockdowns in Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.