Fully vaccinated travelers from any country can now book holidays in tourist destination Phuket, the Thai government has announced, as part of a struggling quarantine-free travel plan.
Thailand’s tourism industry is on its knees, with the coronavirus pandemic and related restrictions slashing visitor numbers from 40 million in 2019 to a mere one in the past two years.
Pre-virus, the region made up a fifth of Thailand’s national income, and travel restrictions hit the country’s worst economic performance in more than two decades.
The state launched a “sandbox” scheme in July that allowed travelers from low- to moderate-risk countries to roam free on the popular beach island for a fortnight, and then later travel to the mainland without quarantine. Of.
Last week, officials cut essential stay-at-home orders by a week in line with national changes to quarantine rules.
Thailand’s tourism authority announced late Friday that the scheme has already been expanded to about 80 eligible countries.
This means that Thailand is now welcoming travelers from any country in the world to the sandbox program.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tani Sangart said immunized children would be able to travel with their parents.
The sandbox program has already attracted more than 38,000 visitors to the white sands of Phuket, and generated $66.67 million.
But tourism operators remain uninterested in the revival of the island’s economy, where 90 percent of hotels have been closed.
They are urging the government to simplify the entry requirements to increase the number of visitors.
The changes will allow previously excluded Indonesians and Malaysians to travel to Phuket.
Before the pandemic, Malaysia was the second largest source of tourists to Thailand, with more than four million visitors in 2019.
Thai officials expect five other destinations to reopen, including the capital Bangkok, using the sandbox model from early November, followed by an increase in vaccination rates in 20 more places in December.
However, travel advice from other countries discouraging tourists could hamper Thailand’s plans to restart the industry.
Britain and the US have issued travel warnings as the country grapples with a deadly third wave of the virus and low vaccination rates.
Daily new case numbers are hovering around 11,000 after a peak of 23,000 in August – but testing levels have also declined.
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