The virtual ban on quarantine-free travel to Thailand will crash the numbers of new international arrivals at Bangkok airports and cause a renewed slump in bookings at Pattaya hotels. The short-lived Test and Go scheme, which boosted the numbers arriving from Europe during November and December, ceased taking new online applications from December 22.
Initially, Chonburi Immigration was taken aback by the huge numbers queuing daily at provincial immigration offices, especially the Jomtien headquarters. Deputy inspector Sara said that over 1,000 tickets were issued on some days and the situation was made worse by a week-long closure ordered by the Department of Disease Control following a coronavirus outbreak in early November.
About 40 percent of daily attendees at Jomtien have been expats and long stay foreigners reporting for the 90 days address check-in. In an attempt to reduce overcrowding in the building, the queues for this function were moved outside with additional seating in the covered car park. The provincial health authority restricted the numbers allowed inside the building at any one time to allow for disease control policies to be implemented.
Most of the residual 60 percent have been long-term tourists taking advantage of the government’s “Covid visa policy” which has allowed them to update their passport permission every two months since April 2020. However, national immigration policy requires them to attend twice (30+30 days) for the two months extension which has contributed to the queue lengths in recent months. There is also some evidence that “Covid extenders” have been moving to Pattaya from Bangkok and some other provinces because of the ease of obtaining the extensions in this province.
A source of confusion at Jomtien Immigration has been the requirement for new arrivals from abroad to report their address on the dreaded form TM30 within three days. In theory, hotels should do this on behalf of their customers, but not all do. Those staying with friends, or at condominium units, must usually report personally with proof of ownership of the accommodation where they are sleeping. It is not possible to obtain any immigration service, such as an extension of stay, unless the address has been registered at local Immigration.
However, the outlook for the next few months is far bleaker in the numbers game. With Test and Go about to fizzle and bans on in-house alcohol sales about to be implemented, Pattaya looks set to resume its ghost city mantle, howbeit temporarily. President of the local hoteliers’ association, Phisut Sae-khu, said he expected hotel occupancy to be no more than 30 percent for several months. There have been requests to include Pattaya in any Sandbox initiative or to permit advance bookings under Test and Go. But the reality is that Thailand’s favorite seaside resort won’t be smiling again any time soon.