Thai tourists can fly into UK, so why not vice versa?

Very different tourism rules apply to Brits and foreigners needing a vacation.

According to UK Border Force figures, almost 90 percent of visitors arriving through Gatwick airport and the Eurostar terminal at London’s St Pancras station are leisure tourists.  The equivalent figure at Heathrow airport is 25 percent.  That means that around 8,000 individuals on a daily basis, out of 20,000, are holidaymakers arriving from other countries.

Obviously their paperwork has to be in order.  Apart from valid passports, they need to provide pre-departure proof of coronavirus-free status and to have booked two future virus tests in advance of UK arrival.  They must also fill in a passenger locator form giving the address where they say they’ll quarantine for 10 days.  Those arriving from or “red list” countries – which don’t currently include Thailand – must quarantine for 10 days in a supervised hotel for a charge of 1,750 pounds.

So if Thai tourists can visit UK, it seems illogical that British vacationers can’t visit Thailand provided that they are prepared to fulfill the bureaucratic requirements for various visas and permissions of stay at the Thai embassy in London.  But overseas holidays to any destination – outside of Ireland, the Channel Isles and the Isle of Man – are forbidden by British government laws threatening fines of up to 5,000 pounds.

British prime minister Boris Johnson said that overseas holidays are currently banned because of the threat that citizens might bring back the virus or one of its variants.  But if that is true of British returnees, why is the same criterion not applied to foreign tourists arriving by rail or air?  The Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirms that no foreigner needs a special reason to visit UK, whilst maintaining that close scrutiny is maintained at all entry points.

In the case of Thailand, the UK policy seems especially bizarre as around half the UK population has been vaccinated already, compared with around 1 percent in Thailand.  Maybe the fog will clear a little in a few days after the UK authorities unfold the details of their traffic-light policy whereby foreign countries will be graded green, yellow and red according to their perceived virus risk.  In view of the early April surge in infection numbers in Bangkok in particular, it’s a fair bet that Thailand won’t be green.  Neither is yellow a foregone conclusion.

As things currently stand, Brits must have a “compulsory” excuse to visit Thailand.  Acceptable reasons include those seeking significant surgery not available in UK, business people and work permit holders, students and accredited volunteers, permanent residents with a red police registration book, Elite visa holders, certain property owners and Brits with family responsibilities in Thailand.