Ever since Thailand revamped its 60 days (single entry) visa late last month, embassies throughout the world have been reporting a gigantic interest by foreigners desperate to get away for the harsh winter or to escape their coronavirus-infected homelands.Its uniqueness is that it offers a leisure vacation for travellers who don’t fit into one of the other closed categories such as work permit holder, property owners, Elite card holder or someone having Thai relatives or dependants.
Although there was much fanfare surrounding the announcement of the Special Tourist Visa (STV) last month, which offers a stay up to 270 days, it quickly became apparent that this visa was available only to those coming from low-risk Covid-19 countries which ruled out the UK, the US and mainland Europe amongst other regions.The crucial difference is that the 60 days tourist visa is available without that restriction.
Of course, the bureaucracy is still sizeable when applying to the embassy for the vital Certificate of Entry: various Covid-19 and health tests, payment in advance for 14 days compulsory hotel quarantine on landing in Bangkok, Covid-specific insurance to US$100,000 (now available on-line easily for anyone aged 0-99) and proof of accommodation in Thailand beyond the quarantine period.
Then comes the last requirement, a death-blow to some and hardly worth a mention to others.Applicants have to provide a UK or Irish bank statement to show that they have maintained at least 12,800 pounds (500,000 baht) for a period of at least six months prior to application.This requirement, specific to this particular visa, again illustrates that Thai authorities are prioritizing at the moment potential high-spenders rather than back-packers.
Notwithstanding the necessity to show a bank balance as a tourist, a new venture in Thai immigration history, embassies have been inundated with requests.Greg Watkins, of the Association of British Travel Agents, estimates that 4,000 customers have already shown interest with a take-up rate of at least 50 percent.Embassies in Paris, Vienna and South Africa show a similar trend.
Maxine Audley, spokesman for Omega World Travel based in USA, said, “Obviously, the drawback is that vacationers must undergo quarantining, but many are prepared to do that on a longer vacation as they are desperate to get away from the grim health and political environment in their countries.”She pointed out that the 60 days could be extended once by 30 days at a local immigration office (then technically by a further week) before obliging the holidaymaker to go home.
On some estimates, the 60 days tourist visa could bring in no fewer than 50,000 worldwide tourists in the next six months. Greg Watkins said, “There are far more flights available to Thailand now which means there is no longer a bottle-neck stoppage and this visa, unlike the STV, does not require group travel, charter flights and all those complications.”He added it was no wonder that the visa was selling like hot cakes.