Thai Sandboxes jeopardized by British traffic lights

The British government is outright banning or heavily discouraging holidays abroad.

British travel gurus are describing as “unbelievable” their government’s reliance on traffic light colours to dissuade the population from travelling abroad this summer. ABTA chief Mark Tanzer said, “It is difficult to know why we have the highest vaccination rate in Europe and the fewest number of flights.”

Under the traffic lights system, the British government heavily discourages, or bans outright, all leisure travel to countries graded amber or red. Thailand is amber alongside most countries. There are only eleven countries graded green-for-go but most of them (for example Singapore and Australia) are not allowing foreign tourists at present. The traffic lights are virtually an instruction to remain in UK.

The only two green countries on the list which actually welcome British tourists are Iceland and Gibraltar which account for 0.5 percent of international flights and are not dream destinations for most vacationers. In other words, Brits are all ready for fun in the sun but have nowhere to go. This matters because the UK in 2019 sent more tourists to Thailand than any EU country except Germany.

Covid-19 has radically changed foreign travel, perhaps forever.

But China sent 40 percent of all international arrivals in 2019 and the figure rises to 50 percent if you include India. Those governments have banned leisure travel for now. So their nationals will not be present for the three Sandboxes which Thailand is preparing to open this year for fully vaccinated travellers: Phuket (July), Chiang Mai (August) and Pattaya (October).

Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT) spokespersons have said that the early Sandboxes will be reliant on tourists from Europe and the USA, although it should be noted that America provided fewer arrivals than did the UK in 2019. TAT speaks of a possible travel bubble with South Korea, but that would mean four hundred passengers a week at best, not the umpteen thousands/millions needed to justify Sandboxes.

British holidaymakers: but what is their destination?

Thai Airways and other airlines have stated that they have planes ready to take off to Thailand from London and other European destinations starting next month. But, of course, flights can be cancelled if demand is non-existent or insufficient. Both France and Germany have warned their nationals to holiday in Europe this year, as indeed they did in 2020, because of the dangers posed by virus variants

Greg Watkins, of the UK’s Last Minute Travel, said, “The Brits simply won’t be coming this year. They have to risk the wrath of their government and have to deal with a complex and expensive vetting process by the Thai embassy in London. It’s not even clear which facilities will be open and which still closed once the planes land in Thailand.”

He suggested that Europeans would return to Thailand in big numbers only when the whole situation was much easier. “My customers want sun and fun and in Thailand you can’t even enjoy a glass of wine with your dinner right now.” He concluded, “As for myself, I’ll come to Thailand when all you need is a passport, an air ticket and a vaccination certificate to flash at immigration.” Sadly, that won’t be anytime soon.