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Thailand u-turns with October proposal

Thailand is struggling economically with no international tourism (photo courtesy Unsplash/Frankie Spontelli).

The economic reality of zero international tourists is beginning to take its toll on Thailand, which has this weekend u-turned again on its reopening plans.

It was stated earlier this month that the country wouldn’t reopen until 2021 at the earliest. However, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has now put forward a pilot project for Phuket ahead of the upcoming high season.

“There is a risk in the new tourism model, but if we don’t open there is a bigger risk for the economy,” TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn told the Bangkok Post.

Tourists make up two-thirds of Thailand’s tourist income.

The 'Safe & Sound' pilot model would see international tourists flown into the country for an extended break. They would likely be expected to wear wristbands with GPS tracking systems and would be quarantined in a hotel for the first 14 days, according to Transport Minister Saksiam Chidchob. The trial is likely to be tested in Phuket province.

Arrivals would be tested on landing and then segregated from the local population for the quarantine period in one-kilometre zones made up of three or four resorts. There, they would be able to use hotel facilities and spend time on a specific section of beach. Hotel staff would have to remain in the zone and would be regularly tested. At the end of the fortnight, they would be tested again and allowed out of the zone and into Phuket.

“The virus won’t go away soon and we have to think about the economy,” said Chidchob. “But we can’t just reopen the borders. We have to be careful,” he told the media.

Thailand closed its international borders in March. The country is now open internally and the government has been trying to promote domestic tourism. However, it is understood that local spending alone can’t compensate for the economic loss of having no international market.

Although it faces one of the worst outlooks among emerging countries, Thailand has managed to control the spread of the virus. Since the beginning of the year, it has reported 3,390 cases and 58 deaths and it hasn't had a local transmission in three months.

It's believed this new proposal would attract a segment of Europeans who regularly escape the northern winter with an extended stay in the country. Many Britons, Scandinavians, Russians and Germans return to Thailand each year as long-stay guests. It's hoped that if the Safe & Sound plan is approved, this year will be no different.


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