Thailand Eases Rules for Foreign Visitors to Reboot Tourism

by BLOOMBERG / pic by AFP

THAILAND will further relax entry rules for foreign visitors starting next month, bowing to demand from the local tourism industry to lower costs 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.   

Thailand saw its Covid cases jump to 21,232 on Wednesday, a six-month high, but the deaths stood at 39, compared with more than 300 a day during the peak of the delta wave in August. 

The baht rallied as much as 0.4% on expectation easier visa rules will boost the country’s current-account surplus. The currency traded at 32.329 to a U.S. dollar, extending gains this year to 3.3%.

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.