Thailand’s battered tourism is showing signs of a rebound after the government eased entry requirements in place since early 2020 at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
As many as 12,000 daily arrivals, double the number of just a few days earlier, were reported at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport since April 1, when entry rules were relaxed.
Fully vaccinated foreign travelers entering via the “Test & Go” and “sandbox” schemes no longer need to show a negative RT-PCR test certificate from before their departure by flight to Thailand, although they still have to take a test upon arrival before they can proceed to holiday destinations.
The government has said it will continue to ease restrictions in the coming months provided the domestic rate of coronavirus infections remains manageable.
On Wednesday, Thailand reported 24,252 official, RT-PCR confirmed new coronavirus cases and 94 deaths. That number has remained steady for weeks with an almost equal number of new cases reported via antigen test.
Over the past two years, prolonged lockdowns and closures, as well as strict entry requirements for foreigners entering the country, have battered Thailand’s previously robust tourism sector.
Numerous small and medium-sized tourism-related businesses have gone bankrupt as formerly busy holiday destinations have become deserted.
Without foreign tourists, entire seaside resort towns have been languishing with restaurants, bars, massage salons and hotels boarded up, many of them with “for sale” signs displayed up front.
Millions of low-income earners have likewise fallen on hard times, making it difficult to make ends meet.
“I rarely have customers,” Pichai Boontong, a middle-aged man who makes a living with his tuk-tuk near Bangkok’s Grand Palace, a popular tourist site, told UCA News, a Bangkok Herald partner.
“Last year I went back home [to northeastern Thailand], but there was no work there either, so I came back to Bangkok,” he said.
Before the pandemic, when Thailand saw some 40 million foreigners visit each year, Pichai had several foreign customers a day and made a relatively good income.
Although the tourism industry has still a long way to go before it can recover to pre-pandemic levels, the easing of entry requirements is likely to boost the number of daily arrivals.
“I’m not afraid of Covid. I am afraid of not having any money. I hope the foreign tourists will start coming back to Thailand,” the tuk-tuk driver said.