Thailand’s Department of Disease Control (DDC) reopening the country to foreign visitors will not raise the risks of local Covid-19 transmission from imported infections. However the foreign tourists may face a shortage of Government approved quarantine hotels.
Responding to the cabinet’s resolution to allow long-stay foreign tourists to enter Thailand, Tanarak Plipat, deputy director-general of the DDC, insisted the move would likely not bring in Covid-19 infections. Above all since the visitors would be subject to a stay at state quarantine facilities for 14 days.
The deputy director-general urged businesses, particularly those based in the provinces adjacent to Myanmar, not to hire illegal migrant workers. Because of the spike in Covid-19 cases in Myanmar in recent weeks.
Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) deputy governor Thapanee Kiatphaibool said tourists with a Special Tourist Visa (STV) recently authorised by the government must travel on flights from overseas directly to their destinations in Thailand.
Possible shortage of alternative state quarantine hotels
The TAT predicted that around 14,400 tourists will visit the country a year under the STV program. Generating revenue of about 12.36 billion baht per year. However alternative state quarantine (ASQ) hotels in Thailand may be in short supply.
The Thai Hotels Association (THA) saying the extra medical cost is preventing operators from taking part.
Mr Nattakorn said ASQ hoteliers have to contribute an average of 40-50% of the package price to corporate hospitals for medical services, including two swab tests for each guest, 24-hour nurses, medical consultants and other costs for telemedicine services.
He said demand for ASQ is rising: Siam Mandarina’s 120 rooms are fully booked until Aug 20, with a 45,000-baht package for 16 days and 15 nights. The vast majority, some 85%, are foreigners who have work permits or families in Thailand. While 15% are Thai returnees who prefer ASQ hotels to state quarantine hotels, where they can stay at no cost.
Thienprasit Chaiyapatranun, executive director of Patra Hotel, said demand from returnees is not strong yet. This is because the government has not cancelled free quarantine stays for Thais.
Under that scenario, the number of rooms will exceed demand as people think twice about the cost.
Alternate quarantine hotels pricey
As a state quarantine hotel, Patra is sponsored by the government for 1,000 baht per one room night. However the government is responsible for medical services and officers to guard the sites.
Mr Thienprasit said 15,000 baht for 15 days quarantine is a reasonable price if Thai returnees have to pay their own costs. He said hotels should be able to partner with public hospitals to offer more affordable packages. Otherwise, the government has to help support medical costs for hotels.
THA president Supawan Tanomkieatipume said many hotels are considering the benefits of ASQ. Because the regulation require operators to partner with hospitals to allocate medical officers to accommodation.
The partnership comes at a higher cost for ASQ hotels. Which are unsure of return on investment because they lack data on the exact market size. The market also differs from state quarantine hotels that receive intake from the government’s screening operations.
Although Ms Supawan agreed with the idea to let returnees who are not students take responsibility for their own quarantine costs, she said the shortage of rooms is a problem the government should address before imposing the measure.
“Hotels are reluctant to join the ASQ scheme, as this incurs extra medical cost,” she said. “If the government would like to increase ASQ accommodation, they should partly subsidize medical costs for hotels. Then guests can pay less and have more choices.”
Preparing for Foreign Arrivals
Meanwhile, deputy police spokesman Pol Col Kissana Phathanacharoen said national police chief Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda has issued an order to police units connected to tourism to coordinate with other agencies in preparing for the arrival of foreign tourists under the STV program.
The police chief’s order followed on the directive of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha after the STV program was announced.
Foreign travellers who met the program’s criteria and passed Covid-19 screening as required by the Thai authorities were eligible for entry under the STV program, said the deputy spokesman.
The Aeronautical Radio of Thailand (ART), meanwhile, reported a 9.8% increase in flights last month.