Thailand’s revival must await quarantine ending, says report

Thailand has searched high and low to revive foreign tourism during the pandemic.

Most European vacationers won’t consider Thailand as a holiday resort until fully vaccinated tourists are spared compulsory quarantine, according to a report by a group of British travel agents.

DreamHols asked 1,360 customers, mostly Brits but with some European Union input, why they were not booking for the Thai Sandbox holidays which are centered on the south of the country.  Fully vaccinated foreign tourists must spend 14 days on Phuket, and potentially several other designated islands, before being allowed to roam the country at will.

Respondents gave a variety of reasons including the overall expense, including insurance and health tests, and the complexity of the ever-changing entrance requirements, the fact that many amenities are closed and a preference for non-Sandbox destinations such as Bangkok, Pattaya and Chiang Mal without an initial 14-days delay in Phuket.

However, the key reason stated by over 75 percent was the requirement to undertake initial quarantine for two full weeks, howbeit with limited freedom to move around designated southern islands to enjoy the sun-kissed beaches as long as they slept every evening at their chosen hotel and did not try to run off.

One respondent from Manchester said, “If you are doubly-vaccinated, it should be enough to prove that and to have a pre-departure Covid test without the need to be confined to quarters for a fortnight.”  He added that everybody he knew was booking a holiday in a country where you were permitted to be free from day one or, at worst, day two.

The Sandbox scheme has to date welcomed 20,000 foreigners to Phuket with around 1,700 Brits, the largest contingent after the USA.  But the American government has now graded Thailand as red, or highest virus risk, and strongly advised against travel to the kingdom.  Britain currently rates Thailand as amber, or medium risk, although the persistent increase in daily infection totals could compromise that intermediate listing.

The Tourist Authority of Thailand governor, Yuthasak Supasorn, has stressed that strict regulations to protect visitors are in force in the Sandbox areas and that no foreign tourist has yet caught the virus whilst enjoying a vacation there.  He explained that the best way forward for Thailand was to reduce the fortnight compulsory quarantine to one week from October this year.  But even that possibility depends on the virus and its variants coming under control.