The Prime Minister of Thailand, Prayuth Chan-ocha, has announced that the country will open to foreign visitors by mid-October.
The reopening of the country to foreign tourists was originally projected for January 2022.
However, Prayuth confirmed the date has been moved up to kickstart Thailand’s tourism economy, which has been severely affected by the pandemic.
The Prime Minister confirmed that once the entry ban is lifted, foreign tourists and returning Thai nationals will be allowed entry “without quarantine or other inconvenient restrictions”. He said that the government is fully committed to the reopening and that it would only be postponed in the case of a serious surge of cases.
“I know this decision comes with some risk because, when we open the country, there will be an increase in infections, no matter how good our precautions,” Prayuth admitted. “But I think when we take into consideration the economic needs of the people, the time has come for us to take that calculated risk.”
Thailand’s Phuket Island to Open to Tourists in July
The Thai government also confirmed that travel restrictions to travel to the popular island resort of Phuket will be eased by the start of July. Known as the “Phuket sandbox”, this scheme is set to act as a pilot test for the full reopening of the country in October.
Under the new measures, fully vaccinated foreign citizens from low-risk countries will be able to travel to Phuket for tourism without the need to quarantine on arrival. Visitors will also be able to travel to the Thai mainland after spending at least 14 days on the island.
The final details of the scheme are still being worked out, including the list of eligible citizens and vaccines that will be accepted. “We’re still waiting for the final framework, which has to be friendly to visitors and safe for local residents”, Thaneth Tantipiriyakij, the president of the Tourism Council of Phuket confirmed. “It has to be the right balance for this to work”.
The Phuket Sandbox plan is dependent on the rise of the vaccination rate among the island’s residents to at least 70% from the current 60%. Nevertheless, the measures are expected to be approved by Thailand’s COVID-19 task force in the coming days.
Easing of Restrictions in Phuket Could Extend to Other Areas of Thailand
Should this trial run be a success, the Thai government has suggested it could be extended to other popular tourist destinations in Thailand such as Chiang Mai and Koh Samui. Additionally, the scheme could become a model to reopen other popular Southeast Asian islands to tourists, including Bali in Indonesia and Phu Quoc in Vietnam.
“The Sandbox is much more than just for Phuket or Thailand. It sets a possible way forward for other Asian countries”, said Ho Kwon Ping, the Executive Chairman of Banyan Tree, a large network of hotels and resorts, many of which are located in Southeast Asia. “It’s the first time anywhere east of the Maldives that you have a country with this population size with such a low vaccination rate actually opening up to the rest of the world”.
Requirements to Travel to Thailand Following the Reopening
As mentioned above, the Thi government will allow foreign tourists who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to travel to Phuket in July and the rest of the country by October.
However, it has yet to be confirmed which vaccines will be accepted and whether the traveler will need to present a printed certificate or if they can show proof of vaccination in digital format. It is likely that Thailand, like many countries worldwide, will implement an electronic Travel Health Certificate that will allow proof of vaccine to be stored digitally.
Additionally, any foreign citizens who are not visa-exempt for Thailand will be required to obtain a visa to visit the country once borders reopen. A number of nationalities are now able to obtain a Thailand eVisa through a simplified online application, eliminating the need to wait in long border queues to apply for a visa on arrival or to visit an embassy in person.