Thailand’s Government Gazette website announced that long stay foreign tourists would now be allowed to enter the Kingdom. The announcement comes after the Cabinet approved the measure on September 15.
According to the gazette announcement, foreigners who intend to apply for a Special Tourist Visa (STV) should:
- Be a foreigner from a low-risk country wishing to stay for months in the kingdom under Public Health Ministry regulations.
- Accept compliance of preventive measures as prescribed by the government, including submitting to alternative state quarantine in appointed hospitals/hotels for not less than 14 days.
- Provide evidence of a place to stay during the long visit.
- Show proof of payment for hotel accommodation or admittance to hospitals chosen as alternative state quarantine facilities.
Provide one of the following as evidence:
- Proof of payment for hotel or accommodation to be used after discharge from quarantine.
- Copy of a condominium title deed owned by the visitor or a family member.
- Evidence of renting accommodation – condominium or house.
- Evidence of payment for the purchase or lease of a condominium-type residence that foreigners can legally buy or lease.
Proof of health and accident insurance policy, which should cover the entire period of stay in Thailand, with insurance for medical expenses in case of outpatient treatment of not less than Bt40,000 (S$1,700) and in case of inpatient treatment of not less than Bt400,000.
Foreigners with the evidence needed above will be eligible to apply for a one-time STV from Thai embassies or consulates in selected countries. Eligible visitors will be charged a visa fee of Bt2,000 to stay in the kingdom for 90 days.
After this period expires, immigration officers will have the power to permit the visitor to renew his/her visa twice, each for another 90 days. Foreigners must submit an application and pay a fee in accordance with the rules.
With the gazette announcement, the STV policy takes effect from October 1 until September 30, 2021.
Thailand is expected to have 50,000 foreign tourists in the fourth quarter of 2020, down 99.5% from a year earlier, an industry body said on Wednesday, as the country tries to support its battered economy by gradually reopening to visitors.
Limited Tourism Until Covid-19 Vaccine
Foreign tourist receipts are seen at 4.5 billion baht in the quarter, down 99% year-on-year, Chairat Trirattanajarasporn, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, told the Bangkok Post.
The council predicts 6.74 million foreign tourists this year. Down 83% from a year earlier, after a record 39.8 million visitors last year, he said. Next year’s outlook also remains uncertain, Mr Chairat said. Despite the official tourism agency predicts 20 million foreign tourist in 2021.
“If there is no vaccine and we still have a 14-day quarantine. I expect only hundreds of thousands of tourists next year,” he said.
The country has had relatively few coronavirus infections compared to most countries and halted foreign tourism and commercial flights in April to try to keep the virus out.
The industry will propose the government allow more foreign tourists from very low-risk countries to return in December with no 14-day quarantine, said Vichit Prakobgosol, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents.
Quarantine Hotels in Thailand
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 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.