Thailand Eases Travel Restrictions to Reboot Tourism

Author: Bloomberg Quicktake: Now

Thailand has eased its Covid-19 travel restrictions for foreign visitors, hoping to jump-start its tourism industry as more countries ease border controls to lure holidaymakers. 

Vaccinated visitors to the Southeast Asian nation won’t be required to undergo a mandatory polymerase chain reaction test on the fifth day of the arrival starting March 1. Instead, they can do a self antigen test, scrapping the requirement to have a confirmed hotel reservation for the test.  
The Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration, Thailand’s main virus task force chaired by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha, also lowered the minimum medical insurance coverage for visitors to $20,000 from $50,000.

Thailand is making it easier for travelers to its famed beaches, Buddhist temples and national parks after nearly two years of tight border curbs decimated its tourism industry. While the nation is battling a spike in omicron-led Covid cases, low mortality rate compared to the peak delta wave means healthcare facilities can cope up with the outbreak, Taweesilp Visanuyothin, a spokesman for the task force, said at a briefing Wednesday.   

The measures are unlikely to lead to a clear improvement in tourism, private consumption and the near-term economic outlook for Thailand, Tim Leelahaphan, an economist at Standard Chartered Plc, said in a note.

“We expect more attempts to boost the tourism sector, including a travel bubble agreement with Thailand’s main markets,” Tim said. “However, we maintain our view that the likelihood of this being implemented by the end of second quarter remains slim, especially with a significant rise in daily new cases and deaths in Thailand. We therefore do not see a clear tourism outlook in the near term” 

Tourism-reliant Thailand has been experimenting with several plans in recent month to try to revive the travel sector that used to contribute to about one-fifth of its economy, with 40 million foreign tourists generating more than $60 billion in 2019.

The country has cleared about 302,000 visitors under its so-called “Test & Go” program since it was reopened for a second time on Feb. 1, according to Taweesilp. Bangkok, the nation’s capital city, eastern province Chonburi and resort island Phuket received the most travelers under the plan, he said.

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