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Private Sector Rips Governments Reopening Delay for Thailand

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The Thai Governments’ confusion over Thailand’s reopening timelines has hindered the chance for the tourism industry to rejuvenate during the upcoming high season. The Prayut government’s inconsistent policies have damaged the country’s credibility, causing international tour operators to forego planning travel packages until travel policies are confirmed.

Thailand’s government has a reopening plan for five areas; Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Hua Hin and Phetchaburi. All 5 provinces have faced yet another setback after the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) decided to put off Thailand’s reopening date to Nov 1, 2021.

For the tourist destination hotspots of Pattaya, Hua Hin and Chiang Mai, this has been the governments’ third postponement from its initial reopening schedule of September. All the changes can be attributed to vaccine shortage because of the governments’ poor vaccine procurement process.

Mr. Tassapon Bijleveld, the executive chairman of Asia Aviation, the largest shareholder of Thai AirAsia, told the Bangkok Post that setback hugely affects the private sector and the nation’s tourism image. Above all, because a reopening timeline of October was already set, having people and companies preparing their plans.

Insufficient amount of vaccine for Thailand

“Airlines had started to invest in in-service maintenance and recruit staff to prepare for a new flow of tourists,” said Mr. Tassapon. “Restarting a business cost a lot of money, even more during a liquidity crisis when every bit of money counts.”

Mr. Tassapon said the Prayut government should have properly evaluated the coronavirus infection curve in Thailand. Making sure residents of reopening areas had a sufficient amount of vaccine for a 70% vaccination rate. Furthermore, they should have had a risk management plan in place before committing to a timeline for each destination.

“Had the government announced earlier that the Nation would be ready for inbound international tourists in December or even January, nobody would have objected. They would have shifted their focus to the domestic market in the final quarter with full force,” said Mr. Tassapon. “The ineptitude and flip-flop of the government only make things worse than the situation already is, particularly regarding our financial stability.”

Mr. Thanet Supornsahasrungsi, acting president of the Chon Buri Tourism Council, has said companies in the tourist town of Pattaya have worked hard for the past 3-4 months to complete tasks the central government asked them to prepare.

Poorly thought-out and highly impractical

The only action companies were unable to take was procuring vaccines, said Mr. Thanet. In the past few months, the central government was unable to provide a realistic vaccination plan to provide communities and businesses with proper protection.

“Furthermore, in addition to Thailand’s vaccine shortage, some rules don’t match our situation. For example, people who work here but fail to have household registration in Chon Buri province, [as well as foreign workers], cannot receive vaccination shots in the province, which is, to say the least poorly thought-out and highly impractical,” he said.

The postponement marks Thailand’s reputation as local tourism operators have already made agreements with overseas tourism agents. These agents have the potential to bring in tour groups from Russia and India, said Mr. Thanet.

Too late to recapture high-season

“Nobody will believe in us again. They will now wait for an official government announcement, which may or may not occur in November. Above all it’s too late to recapture high-season traffic as international flights often need 2-3 months’ notice for air traffic permissions,” he said.

“It also takes 2-3 months to promote the Thailand tour packages.”

Meanwhile, Thailand’s Tourism Authority governor Yuthasak Supasorn said the decision by the Prayut government to reduce the quarantine period to seven days for inoculated international visitors will help ignite tourism demand upon Thailand’s reopening.

However, tourists will still have to take costly RT-PCR coronavirus tests during their time here. Above all, because Thailand’s Health Department does not want to use covid antigen test kits for the second and third tests.

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