Oct 1, 2020
Two new hotly anticipated high-end hotels—Capella Bangkok and Kimpton Maa-Lai—opened in Bangkok today, perfect timing for the announcement that the Land of Smiles is officially reopen to foreign tourists. Thailand will welcome its first international leisure flight next week, with about 120 long-term vacationers from Guangzhou, China.
The visitors are flying into Phuket Island on October 8 under the new long-stay Special Tourist Visa (STV) program, which is valid for 90 days and can be renewed for two additional 90-day extensions. That’s potentially nine months’ worth of fun in the sun.
They will need an approved health insurance package and a negative coronavirus test 72 hours before traveling, and will stay in alternative state quarantine (ASQ) hotels and facilities for 14 days, getting tested twice again before release.
So far, at least 75 hotels have been approved for quarantine by Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Defense, with prices ranging from Bt28,000 to Bt220,000. They include wellness-focused hotels such as Movenpick BDSM, which is affiliated with Bangkok Hospital; old-school luxury stays like Anantara Siam, linked under this program with Bumrungrad Hospital; and beach resorts like the sprawling J.W. Marriott Phuket, which was approved so recently the ASQ details have not yet been announced.
With Thailand’s tourism-dependent economy expected to contract by 8.5% this year, the 1,200 long-stay visitors expected in the first month are welcome, or, more to the point, their wallets are. It’s hoped they’ll generate Bt1 billion in revenue, according to government spokeswoman Traisulee Traisoranakul, who estimated that if the STV program lasts for a year it could take in 14,400 tourists spending Bt12.4 billion.
Alas, short-term tourists still have to find islands to hop elsewhere, for now. Which means, by the end of the year, Thailand will likely only rack up 6.7 million foreign visitors, a far cry from last year’s record 39.8 million, whose spending accounted for 11.4% of the country’s GDP, or Bt1.93 trillion.
Thailand has just 3,564 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 59 deaths, despite being the first country outside China to have a reported infection, back on January 15. After lasting for at least 100 days with no new cases through much of the spring and summer, the government plans to keep close tabs even as it lets tourists trickle back in from low-risk countries.
“We are not opening the country,” Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said. “We are limiting the number of entries and will manage with wrist bands, apps to follow them.”
Those with a few weeks to spare for Thailand’s famous beaches, spicy food and warm hospitality should contact the Tourism Authority of Thailand or the Thai Embassy in their location for further details.