'Charming Chiang Mai' readies for reopening


Chiang Mai is hoping to welcome back holidaymakers this autumn (picture courtesy UnSplash).


Chiang Mai is looking ahead to reopening to holidaymakers this autumn under the ‘Charming Chiang Mai’ scheme.


However, the northern city will be taking a different approach to the Phuket Sandbox, according to reports in the Bangkok Post. Unlike its southern island neighbour, whose resident population is now vaccinated to 70%, Chiang Mai is still to take full delivery of its Covid-19 vaccine allotment.


According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), this means that Chiang Mai will be unable to open as freely as Phuket under the Charming Chiang Mai scheme due to the slow vaccination roll-out in the province. Instead the province will welcome visitors on package tours via sealed routes.


In 2019, Chiang Mai reaped 109 billion baht from more than ten million tourists, the majority of whom arrived from China, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the US. And a significant portion of tourism income came from domestic visitors. But the pandemic has driven down occupancy rates to less than five per cent.


The shortfall in vaccines has also impacted on hotels who must be certified SHA Plus - with at least 70% of staff vaccinated - to be able to serve international arrivals. At present, only 17 hotels and 12 restaurants in Chiang Mai have achieved SHA Plus status.


Tourism operators are now working with TAT offices worldwide to partner with agents to arrange package tours on sealed routes under the Charming Chiang Mai programme. According to TAT, the best case scenario would be around 4,000 arrivals in the first month after opening with three international flights a day landing in the city.


Tourism operators have planned nine themed programmes for package tour visitors, including golf tours, health and wellness visits, medical packages and family programmes.


Arrivals must remain in their hotel room for the first day of their holiday while they wait for Covid-19 results and from the second day they will be able to travel under their pre-booked programme. After two weeks in Chiang Mai, they may be able to travel to other provinces.


The Charming Chiang Mai plan will be discussed again in late August before being submitted to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration for approval.


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