The pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges and risks for everyone and for countries that rely heavily on tourism putting the goal post in the right spot has been more challenging, to strike a stable balance between maintain the country and people safe and getting the business to restart for which part of the country depends on. Unfortunately, it seems that Thailand after several attempts, still cannot get it right.
The Thai authorities recently announced reduced quarantine for visitors and shorter quarantine for vaccinated visitors and after luring in bookings and future trips, in preparation for quarantine free travel to Phuket, the country seems to have changed its mind, again.
Thailand had been preparing to welcome vaccinated visitors to Phuket by July, without any quarantine requirements. There is still some last-minute chance that could come true, but in the interim, the country is leaving travellers livid.
Now, Thailand has made overnight changes without any advanced warning, to end shortened quarantine, vaccinated or not, and is returning to a full 14-day quarantine.
This means arrivals from the 6th of May, will land to a bill for a longer stay, and up to another week before they can get out and enjoy the country. All visitors are required to enter a supervised hotel quarantine.
The country is dealing with increasing covid-19 cases, particularly in hotspots including Bangkok, as a slow rollout of the vaccine continues.
For the past six weeks, Thailand allowed a 7-day quarantine for vaccinated travellers and 10 for all non-vaccinated visitors. Considering the jet lag, 7 days was reasonable to get adjusted with the local time before starting the holidays, therefore many travellers that are eager to return to the country booked their trips on that basis.
The news has left travellers who were willing to endure the 7-to-10-day quarantine, but not 14 days, scrambling to cancel non-refundable trips. It’s hard to see how quarantine free travel to Phuket would begin in just two months’ time, given this change.
Other tourism dependent nations are rapidly opening, with either zero, or reduced quarantine for all vaccinated visitors, and exceptions for travellers who test negative.
They have done so by pushing advanced technology to validate travel documents and by diligently working to vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.
The Maldives has remained open since July, with a negative PCR test required before travel and has now fully vaccinated nearly most of its population. It is done so well, vaccine on arrival will be offered to tourists as an enticement.
Hong Kong and Singapore will open their travel bubble in the weeks to come, while Australia and New Zealand have so far done a great job in launching and managing our own. Taiwan will welcome vaccinated travellers with a reduced quarantine from mid-May as well. Europe is full steam ahead with quarantine free travel for vaccinated travellers or those with a PCR test proving to be virus free.
Yet in Thailand, plans keep changing to the detriment of travellers. Newly announced local lockdowns mean any visitors would have little to do anyway. Eventually, it could crush future interest in visiting.
By Joe Cusmano