Thailand is considering easing more travel restrictions in order to incentivize travel further as their most recent attempt at reopening brought about mixed levels of success. Home to the world’s most visited city, Bangkok, high levels of tourism to the Land of Smiles used to be all but guaranteed, but the once popular destination for luxury and budget travelers alike has found it difficult to entice travelers back to its shores in the wake of the pandemic.
Whilst travel numbers have been higher than in previous months as a result of their most recent attempts at reopening, the country has their eyes set on luring even more travelers – and it’s government thinks making entry even easier is the way to achieve it. Here’s a look at changes we could see in a few weeks, plus a look at why the country has yet to realise its full pandemic travel potential so far.
Thailand Mulls New Measures – What Travelers Should Know
Throughout much of the pandemic, travel to Thailand has been possible in one way or another. Previous restrictions saw travelers having to stay two weeks in quarantine hotels before being able to explore at their will, whilst the Phuket Sandbox offered travelers a happy middle ground between quarantine and freedom. The low uptake in these options saw the Thai government move to introduce their most restriction-free entry requirements of the pandemic on November 1st – though its success has been mixed.
The Thailand Pass system allows travelers from 63 countries to be able to enter the country without having to endure a lengthy stay in quarantine – just one night whilst waiting for their results from their PCR test on arrival. As of November 11th, more than 140,000 travelers had applied to enter the country using the Thailand Pass scheme, with over 90,000 being approved – tourist numbers that Thailand has sorely missed throughout the pandemic.
In stark contrast, Mexico enjoyed more than 25 million tourists in 2020. They currently do not have any testing or quarantine requirements.
Unfortunately, whilst those numbers are impressive in the current pandemic context, they could actually be far higher. Many prospective travelers to the country have found it difficult to complete their Thailand Pass applications due to both confusing requirements and system errors when uploading their information. Others have cited Thailand’s strict domestic restrictions as reasons why they will not enter the country, but the government is working at making the prospect of visiting the country even sweeter to foreign travelers.
Amongst the restriction easing measures being considered by the government is to take away the PCR test on arrival requirement and replace it with quicker ATK testing. Some travelers have expressed a frustration at having to stay in a quarantine facility for a night whilst their results are processed – despite many channels advertising the country as “quarantine free” – and a switch to quicker ATK testing will see the controversial restriction removed, making travel to the country a more attractive proposition.
Other restriction changes being mulled surround how the Thai authorities address positive test results on arrival. At present, should an arrival test positive, all travelers who sat two rows in front and behind the Covid-positive traveler must also be quarantined – posing a costly, significant risk to those planning on visiting the country. Planned changes to this rule would see only those who sat directly next to the positive passenger having to go into quarantine, and for a shorter period of time – removing some of the fear travelers may have towards visiting the country.
Whilst it may be true that the worst-affected cities such as Bangkok are unlikely to see bars and clubs open until the new year, other popular tourist spots in the country – such as Krabi – have recently seen some establishments able to serve alcohol once more, with more expected to follow – giving travelers more impetus to leave the capital and get exploring. Whilst Thailand doesn’t quite yet resemble the fun, free-spirited travel destination we once knew, such changes would see it well and truly on the right path.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories