Tourism and Sports Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakarn on Monday doubled-down on his call for a travel bubble with China, insisting the only way Thailand’s tourism industry will recover is if visitors can enter the country without having to endure quarantine.
“If Thailand continues to limit foreign tourists and require 14, 10, seven, or even five days of quarantine time, not enough foreigners will visit Thailand to support the country,” he told the media. “If the government doesn’t balance between safety and the economy and doesn’t open the country to foreigners with no quarantine, I believe that about 50 percent of tourism companies will go out of businesses by the middle of next year.”
Pipat last week dusted off his June proposal to create a travel bubble with 22 provinces in China, but the Public Health Ministry still has no interest in implementing it.
Travel bubbles – the idea that two countries with well-controlled coronavirus situations could exchange tourists without them needing to go through 10-14 days of quarantine – were all the rage in June and July. But the world’s summer surge in coronavirus cases popped bubble hopes.
Pipat said he believes Thailand is prepared to handle any coronavirus cases that may emerge and the benefit of reopening to some tourists outweighs any public-health risk.
He said he’d like to see the Cabinet approve the measure by year-end as a “new year’s gift” to Thais.
“We must accept the fact that domestic tourism contributes at best 30-35 percent of Thailand’s total tourism industry revenue,” Pipat said. “Although we must continue to drive domestic tourism, it will not increase more than it was.”
Pipat said he’s preparing to meet with ambassadors from China, Japan, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand by December to discuss the prospects of travel bubbles.
Pipat is and has been an outlier among Thai cabinet ministers, aggressively pushing to reopen Thailand to international tourists even as coronavirus cases surge around the world.
Thailand is hardly the only country to impose quarantines on new arrivals and the fact that only one travel bubble has been approved anywhere in the world – despite the many suggestions to start them – is proof that the world’s priority remains preventing the spread of Covid-19 until a vaccine is widely available.