Thailand to reopen for quarantine-free entry from 46 countries, including the U.S., China and the U.K., from Nov. 1 in a bid to boost tourist inflows into an economy ravaged by floods and COVID-19.
Thursday’s announcement was well above the 10 countries that the government had earlier proposed for its plan to reopen to international visitors.
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Other places on the list include Australia, Germany, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong.
“If we want to attract more foreign tourists to stimulate our tourism and tourism-related businesses, we needed to be proactive,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Facebook Thursday.
“I am glad to inform you that we have increased the number of low-risk countries to be allowed to visit Thailand without quarantine to 46 countries,” he added.
Visitors will still need to show proof of a negative RT-PCR test result for COVID-19 taken before they leave their home country. They also must take another test upon arrival.
Tourists from countries not on the list will be able to visit Thailand but must undergo quarantine. Currently, a seven-day quarantine is mandatory for those arriving by air and a 10-day stint for those arriving by sea.
Thailand is expected to add more low-risk countries to the list on Dec. 1 and Jan. 1.
Reviving tourism is a must for the Thai economy to grow, as the sector and related businesses accounted for 20% of Thailand’s gross domestic product before the pandemic. The economy shrank 6.1% in 2020 after incoming visitors were banned.
The Bank of Thailand forecasts the economy to grow 0.7% in 2021 and 3.9% in 2022, reflecting an expected rise in tourists.
Adding to the weight of the tourism slump on the economy, the country has been hit by devastating floods that inundated farmland and disrupted logistics.
Heavy rainfall caused by a tropical depression since late September has disrupted economic activity in 33 provinces and badly affected 985,233 families in 16 provinces who have to deal with floodwaters as high as 2 meters. The floods are threatening low-lying areas in the central part of the country near Bangkok, which is only 1.5 meters above sea level and home to thousands of factories.
The University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce has forecast that floods could cause around 15 billion baht ($443 million) in damage — worth 0.1% to 0.2% of estimated 2021 GDP.
That would be a significant hit to the economy, which was forecast to grow a very modest 0.7% to 1.2% due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board, a national think tank.
Moreover, the government approved on Tuesday 54.5 billion baht in relief measures to stimulate the economy by increasing domestic spending. This includes 42 billion baht to be transferred directly to people registered for the government’s subsidy program, according to spokesperson Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana. Each person will receive 1,500 baht.
The 46 countries and territories that Thailand plans to allow quarantine-free entry from are: Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Bhutan, Brunei, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the U.K., the U.S. and Hong Kong.
By APORNRATH PHOONPHONGPHIPHAT @ Nikkei