Thailand hopes to welcome tourists to Bangkok, top cities next month

Boats that are used to transport tourists around the Chao Phraya river are seen idle due to travel bans and border closures from the global coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak in downtown Bangkok, Thailand, on Feb 4, 2021.
PHOTO: Reuters

BANGKOK - Thailand plans to reopen Bangkok and other key destinations to foreign tourists next month, officials said on Thursday (Sept 9), aiming to revive its battered travel industry after indications the number of new coronavirus infections may have peaked.

Bangkok, Hua Hin, Pattaya and Chiang Mai will be added to a programme in which fully vaccinated visitors who commit to a series of tests can enter, under certain criteria, said government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchan.

The scheme is underway on the islands of Samui and Phuket, where about 70 per cent of the local population were required to be fully inoculated.

The plan to allow quarantine-free entry initially announced in June was questioned after new daily infections soared in August to as high as 23,000, with record fatalities on many days.

On Thursday Thailand reported 16,031 new infections, among more than 1.3 million overall, the majority since April. It has recorded 13,731 deaths.

Bangkok's reopening would be partial, however, starting with areas popular with visitors, Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Yuthasak Supasorn told Reuters, without elaborating.

Yuthasak is targeting 1 million visitors to Thailand this year. That compares to nearly 40 million in 2019.

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About 88,000 have been recorded so far this year, a third of which went to Phuket, which opened in July.

Vaccinations could be an obstacle to an October reopening, however, with only 34 per cent of Bangkok residents fully vaccinated so far, and just 15 per cent of people nationwide given the required two doses.

It also comes as some countries place restrictions like quarantine on arrivals from Thailand, in part due to that low rate, including Britain, a key market.

Local hotel operators, however, hope slowing infections and more vaccinations will help.

"We hope that this particular situation resolves itself in time for this critical booking period," said Frederic Varnier, who manages Minor International's Anantara resorts in Phuket.