Hopes for the upcoming high season in Pattaya are sinking

Pattaya’s evening attractions remain firmly shuttered.

The Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT) has reported that various plans to reopen resort cities, including Pattaya, likely won’t bear much fruit until next year at least. TCM president Chamnan Srisawat said the government should make urgent adjustments to various hurdles which are handicapping international tourist arrivals.

He said that the Sandbox concept, due to be extended to Pattaya and some other tourist cities in November, needed to be standardized. Although formal quarantine is not required, Sandoxers must stay at least a week in a listed hotel paid for in advance, but different schemes have their own rules about limiting movement for the first two weeks. For example, it is unclear if a traveller can leave the Sandbox province during that time, whilst the concept of “sealed routes” on and after arrival has received little clarification.

The TCT also wants the cost of Covid exams reduced by allowing more use of antigen tests rather than the expensive PCR method. Three PCR tests on and after arrival can cost 8,000 baht or more in Thailand, adding yet another cost to the holiday. The Council further suggested that tour operators should be free to assist potential tourists with the bureaucratic certificate of entry procedure which is required by all arrivals.

The documents required by embassies for the certificate of entry vary according to the specific visa applied for and even discretion by the individual embassy. But all applicants are required to buy in advance Covid-related insurance worth US$100,000 for the duration of the visa. Some visas, for example based on retirement or the newly-extended Special Tourist Visa additionally require general health insurance worth 400,000 baht (inpatient) and 40,000 (outpatient), a huge problem for many foreigners aged 75 and beyond.

Meanwhile, bars and clubs are closed throughout the country and dark red zones, including Pattaya, have a prohibition on serving alcohol with meals, as well as a curfew starting at 10 pm. The Thai Hotels Association believes that the best hope for short-term arrivals will be Indian and Russian group tours. President Marisa Nunbhakdi said the Chinese market would not pick up until the end of 2022, whilst traditional markets in Europe and the USA would shy away from Thailand as long as the country appeared to close down in the early evening.

UK travel specialist Greg Watkins said there would be zero interest in Thailand until the country simplified its entry procedures, got rid of movement restrictions for fully vaccinated arrivals and restarted evening entertainment opportunities. He noted that Thailand is currently off-limits for Brits as it is listed as a danger-red zone for Covid. But he expected this particular ban to be short-lived as Thailand was making good progress in controlling the spread of infections.