Thailand is to receive its first foreign vacationers when a flight from China arrives next week, marking the gradual restart of a vital tourism sector battered by COVID-19 travel curbs, a senior official said yesterday.
The first flight would have about 120 tourists from Guangzhou, flying directly to the resort island of Phuket, Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said.
Thailand has kept COVID-19 infections low with just 3,559 cases and 59 deaths, but its economy has taken a hit from a ban on foreign visitors since April and is expected to contract 8.5 percent this year.
Government spokeswoman Traisulee Traisoranakul said that 1,200 tourists are expected in the first month, generating about 1 billion baht (US$31.58 million) in revenue and 12.4 billion baht over one year with 14,400 tourists.
Nationalities permitted to enter would be from countries deemed low-risk by the government, which would keep tabs on them.
“We are not opening the country, we are limiting the number of entries and will manage with wrist bands, apps to follow them,” Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters.
The government predicts just 6.7 million foreign visitors this year after a record 39.8 million last year, whose spending made up about 11.4 percent of GDP, or 1.93 trillion baht.
Thailand in January was the first country outside of China to detect the virus, in a visitor from Wuhan.
“Tourists will be on a long-stay visa, starting Oct. 8 and will stay in alternative state quarantine for 14 days,” Yuthasak said.
Visitors would need health insurance and a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours before traveling. They would also be tested twice in quarantine.
“Thailand’s protection system can prevent a second wave,” Traisulee said.
“We have prevented local transmission for 100 days before,” she said, adding that had made Thailand attractive for visitors.
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