Thailand plans to waive its mandatory quarantine for vaccinated visitors to its capital Bangkok and top tourist destinations from October, an official said on Friday, in a bid to revive a key industry battered by coronavirus travel curbs.
The new measure means easier access to hotspots like Pattaya, Phang Nga, Koh Samui, Krabi and the capital Bangkok, deputy government spokeswoman Traisulee Traisoranakul said, among 10 provinces that will welcome tourists with proof of vaccination against COVID-19 from Oct. 1. Thailand has since a year ago tightened visa processes and required all visitors and returning residents to undergo 14 days of quarantine in government-approved facilities.
The announcement comes as the resort island of Phuket prepares to open to vaccinated travellers in July in a pilot scheme for the broader plan. It is seeking to inoculate most of its residents before the reopening, and before mass vaccinations begin in the rest of Thailand. Tourism a key source of income and jobs for Thailand. In 2019, it welcomed a record 39.9 million visitors who spent 1.91 trillion baht ($61.32 billion).
That compared with 6.7 million arrivals last year. The new plan could draw 3.5 million tourists this year, generating 298 billion baht ($9.58 billion) in revenue, Traisulee said in a statement, adding that at least 70 per cent of residents in each of the 10 provinces must first be inoculated.
Thailand had until last month experienced only minor outbreaks and has been slow to procure and administer COVID-19 vaccines, with only 1.6 million doses used so far. Health Minister Anutin Charnvirankul said on Friday he expects 10 million to 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to be available in the second half of the year.
The rush to secure vaccines comes after Thailand was hit early last month by its biggest outbreak yet, which has seen its total cases more than double and deaths more than triple.