Travelers arrive at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok on Jan 6, 2023. (JACK TAYLOR / AFP)
Thailand on Jan 6 announced a package of new COVID-related measures. The package welcomes Chinese tourists and treats them like all other international travelers, who are required to show proof of at least two doses of COVID-19 vaccination.
Apart from vaccination, the Thailand Public Health Ministry also recommended travelers buy health insurance covering COVID treatment during their stay in the country.
The results came after a meeting on Jan 5 involving Thai ministries of public health, transportation, tourism and sports, as well as executives of several state agencies.
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Starting from Jan 8 and following an announcement in late December, China will adjust its COVID-19 control measures by lifting mandatory quarantine for cross-border travelers, giving impetus for outbound tours. International travelers will no longer have to undergo quarantine or take a nucleic acid test upon arrival in China.
During a meeting with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha last week, TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said Chinese tourists would start arriving from early January and about 300,000 will arrive in the first quarter, which would help the tourism sector during the low season
The expected boost to Chinese overseas travel is big news to many. “Thailand will not discriminate against tourists from China by subjecting them to specific anti-COVID requirements,” the country’s public health minister, Anutin Chanvirakul, said at a recent press conference.
According to Thailand’s Immigration Bureau, the country welcomed nearly 290,000 Chinese travelers over the past year and China ranked 14th among Thailand’s markets for inbound tourists.
Tanes Petsuwan, deputy governor for international marketing, Asia and South Pacific, at the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), said this represents a surge of around 95 percent from the previous year, when 13,043 Chinese tourists were recorded.
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In an interview with China Daily, Tanes said that while Chinese travelers may not be Thailand’s top tourism market like back in 2019, still many Chinese were coming to Thailand.
During a meeting with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha last week, TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said Chinese tourists would start arriving from early January and about 300,000 will arrive in the first quarter, which would help the tourism sector during the low season.
“We have not imposed any updated measures specifically for Chinese travelers who are entering Thailand,” said Tanes. “Over these two months, it has proved that our country can keep the pandemic situation under control. At the same time, we can successfully reopen the country, boost the economy, and bring life back to normal.”
In this file photo taken on Oct 30, 2021, tourists enjoy Phra Nang Beach in Krabi. (MLADEN ANTONOV / AFP)
Thailand has fully reopened to international tourists since Oct 1. Travelers from all countries, including China, are no longer required to show a COVID-19 vaccination record, negative rapid antigen test or reverse transcription PCR test to enter the country. But it is suggested that people wear a mask in public places. Hand disinfectant is provided nearly everywhere, including restaurants, on public transportation and at hotels.
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According to TAT statistics, Chinese travelers accounted for one-fourth of the total international inbound tourists in Thailand before the COVID pandemic, with more than 11 million Chinese arrivals in 2019 alone, who generated over 500 billion baht ($14.66 billion) in tourism revenue.
Phuket, one of the most popular island destinations among Chinese tourists, now has about 60 percent of the private sector back in business. In a recent interview with local media, Bhumikitti Ruktaengam, advisory chairman of the Phuket Tourist Association, said 20 percent of the island’s suspended businesses could reopen if Chinese tourists return.
Traisuree Taisaranakul, deputy government spokeswoman, said that international travelers who show signs of respiratory problems will be asked to postpone their travel and rest until they are fully recovered.
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“Moreover, those who plan to travel from countries that require coronavirus testing upon arrival should reserve an SHA-plus hotel as it provides certificates from the Department of Medical Sciences,” she said in an interview with the Bangkok Post.
SHA and SHA-plus identification are given by Thailand’s tourism authority to hotels and services that meet certain pandemic-level safety and health standards.