Bangkok set to welcome international tourists from October, despite covid challenges

Thailand’s capital, Bangkok is gearing up to welcome tourists once again.

Under the proposed plans, fully vaccinated international tourists would be able to travel to Bangkok from October 1.

Northern Thailand’s Chiang Mai, famed for its temples and mountains, as well as beach resorts Pattaya, Cha-Am and Hua Hin, are also preparing to reopen to tourists.

“More destinations comprising Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hua Hin and Pattaya, are planned to reopen from October 1, 2021,” said tourism ministry officials on Monday.

The new plan will be proposed to Thailand’s Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration for approval. Before they can be approved to join the scheme, which waives quarantine for fully inoculated travellers, each of the regions must have at least a 70 per cent local vaccination rate.

The move is designed to complement Thailand’s Sandbox initiative, which was launched in July as the first step in reopening the country’s battered tourism industry.

Tourism officials claim the restart has been a success.

More than 27,000 international travellers have reportedly visited Thailand under the scheme, which allows vaccinated tourists entry to Phuket and other cities, so long as they stay in hotels approved by the tourism authority. All of the approved hotels have been safety checked and guarantee at least 70 per cent of the workforce is vaccinated.

Most tourists have been arriving in Phuket from the US, UK, Israel, Germany and France, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

More than 366,971 hotel rooms were reserved in Phuket in July and August as tourists returned under the Sandbox scheme. Thailand’s largest island has also secured another 95,997 reservations for rooms in September, according to the tourism authority.

In August, the length of time visitors must stay in Phuket was reduced from 14 to seven days, meaning tourists can travel to select destinations after one week. Krabi and Phang Nga in the south of the country and Surat Thani, the jumping-off point to Ko Samui, Ko Tao, and Ko Pha Ngan, are among the additional destinations currently open to travellers. After 14 days in the country, tourists can travel domestically under the same rules as locals.

Travel bubbles are being planned with neighbouring countries, said tourism officials, but these will not come into existence until 2022 at the earliest.

Despite its inclusion in the reopening proposals, Bangkok is not yet clear of a Covid-19 crisis. On Monday, protesters took to the streets in the capital to demonstrate against Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis.

The country has recorded 1,294,522 cases and more than 13,000 people have died from the virus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Bangkok has consistently been the area with the highest number of cases.

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