Thailand’s ban on international airline flights will continue “indefinitely”, the country’s aviation chief said Wednesday, adding another more credence to supposition that tourists will be locked out until next year.
Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand Director Chula Sukmanop told the media there are no plans to allow regular tourists to fly to Thailand for the foreseeable future and negotiations to form bilateral “travel bubble” arrangements remain on hold with little interest in restarting them, he said.
The current situation – in which only repatriation flights are arrivals of select groups of medical patients and foreign businesspeople are allowed entry – will continue while the coronavirus pandemic remains “critical” abroad.
Worldwide coronavirus cases on Wednesday surpassed 20 million, with Brazil and Mexico reporting a combined 27,000 infections in just one day. More than 12.4 million have recovered, and more than 744,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University in the U.S., where cases totaled more than 5.15 million and 1,300 deaths were reported yesterday alone.
Chula said the CAAT and Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration would continue to monitor the pandemic to determine when it would be safe for Thailand to resume regularly scheduled commercial flights.
His comments dovetail with speculation by Chattan Kunjara na Ayudhya, deputy governor for international marketing at the Tourism Authority of Thailand, who said at a webinar last week that he did not expect Thailand to reopen leisure travelers until 2021. He said he knew of no talk of, or timeline issued, for reopening the country.
The comments were reported exclusively by Marissa Carruthers of travel-industry trade magazine TTG Asia, although her story was copied in whole without attribution by a Thai news-plagiarist website.
She quoted Chattan as saying “I see no signal from the government that the country will open this year. The Christmas period, usually the high season, is in jeopardy and I’m looking horribly even to Chinese New Year in February, which is an iffy proposition at best now.
“…The government is taking a wait-and-see attitude. They want to see how the current groups of foreigners, such as film crews and diplomats, do first. There is still a lot of nervousness.”
The government, however, is not unified behind the idea of keeping borders closed, however. The Tourism and Sports Ministry remains adamant about the need to restart international tourism, even in limited form, as evidence by this week’s announcement that the ministry would propose to the CCSA the opening of Phuket, the Phi Phi islands, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.
Meanwhile, Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, and Tourism Authority of Thailand Gov. Yuthasak Supasorn met with the Association of Thai Travel Agents Wednesday are considering a proposal from the ATTA for “Safe and Sealed” tourism under which 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.