By Alison Fox
Mar 6, 2021
THAILAND’S TOURISM INDUSTRY LAUNCHED a campaign on Tuesday, hoping to persuade the country to welcome visitors back by July.
The #OpenThailandSafely campaign hopes to welcome international tourists back to Thailand by July 1, campaign organizers shared with Travel + Leisure, a date which they believe provides enough time for vaccines to make their way around the world.
In addition leaving enough time for travelers to get vaccinated, organizers argued the July 1 date would give Thai medical authorities the opportunity to vaccinate front line staff and vulnerable citizens, and would give the tourism industry (like airlines and hotels) time to prepare to welcome visitors.
Organizers estimate it will take at least a year for Thailand to return to pre-pandemic tourism numbers, which reached nearly 40 million in 2019.
“The financial, social, physical and psychological health of Thai people has been adversely affected. The disruption of travel has not just impacted tourism, but also torn families apart and greatly reduced international trade,” the petition reads in part. “The current situation is unsustainable.”
Sponsors of #OpenThailandSafely include hotel heavy-hitters such as Aman and Cape & Kantary, and travel companies including Smiling Albino and YAANA Ventures, whose CEO, Willem Niemeijer, told T+L in a statement: “The 1 July reopening would be a strategic opportunity for Thailand to show a leadership role among Asian countries and prepare the way for a solid recovery of the Thai economy in 2022.”
The group plans to send their request to the country’s prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, as well as the minister of tourism and sports, and governor of the tourism authority of Thailand.
William Heinecke, the chairman of Bangkok-based hospitality empire Minor International — which owns Anantara Hotels, Avani and sundry other brands, and is a main backer of the petition — has already proposed to the prime minister a fast-track vaccination program that would make hotel employees and tourism-related workers among the first group in the country inoculated along with airline workers, and the elimination of the now-mandatory quarantine for international visitors, so long as they are vaccinated.
“To ensure the safest reopening of Thailand, international tourists can be asked to satisfy any safeguards the Thai Government may require. This may, for example, include showing officially recognised proof of a Covid-19 vaccination from their home country, purchasing health insurance, showing proof of a negative Covid test within 72 hours of departure, and so on,” the #OpenThailandSafely petition reads.
“A gradual reopening, with the appropriate cautionary steps taken, will undoubtedly save businesses, jobs and bolster the economy,” John Blanco, general manager at luxury hotel Capella Bangkok, another signatory, told the FT. “Given the building global momentum of vaccination, it would make sense to begin planning for the necessary steps.”
Popular beach destination Phuket has laid out its plan to vaccinate its own residents in order to begin welcoming vaccinated tourists by October. Thailand does allow tourists to enter the country, but only if they agree to stay for several months and undergo a two-week quarantine.
The rollout of the vaccine around the world has put a spotlight on the concept of vaccine passports. Some countries — like the Seychelles and Georgia — have embraced the idea, allowing vaccinated travelers to skip quarantine measures.