Thailand ready to scrap last of pandemic-era curbs on tourists

THAILAND plans to end mandatory pre-travel registration for foreigners, rolling back the last of the pandemic-era curbs, as the tourism-reliant nation bets on global visitors to power its economic recovery.  

The country’s main Covid-19 task force is likely to consider a proposal to scrap the so-called Thailand Pass requirement at a meeting on June 17, Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn told reporters on Thursday. The move would go into effect next month and has the backing of the Health Ministry, he said.

“Our country has been battered by this pandemic for so long,” Phiphat said. “It’s time to make a full attempt to restore our economic growth with tourism. The removal of Thailand Pass will make it more convenient for tourists to come.”

Foreign nationals are currently required to upload details of vaccinations and proof of medical insurance of at least $10,000 before departure to secure the Thailand Pass, which allows Covid-negative visitors a waiver of quarantine on arrival and free mobility in the country.

Thai travel and leisure industry players have been calling for cancellation of the registration program, saying it deterred prospective holidaymakers. Before the pandemic, the overall tourism-related sector accounted for about a fifth of Thailand’s economy and jobs, with nearly 40 million overseas visitors in 2019, according to the central bank.

The Tourism Ministry will also propose restoration of visa-on-arrival for travelers from nearly all countries that were eligible before the pandemic, with the exception of some territories that are still battling Covid outbreaks, Phiphat said.  

The move to lift restrictions on foreign arrivals will boost the prospects for Thailand, the second-largest economy in Southeast Asia after Indonesia, to meet its latest target of attracting 1 million tourists a month from October.  

Earlier this month, Thailand allowed bars, pubs and karaoke clubs to reopen in some regions, ending shutdown of more than a year. The measures come amid an easing of local Covid cases and a scramble among tourism-reliant countries to once again woo travelers.  

Thailand will also continue delaying imposition of a 300 baht ($9) entry fee on people who arrive via air travel, Phiphat said. The government needs more time to study whether and how to charge visitors who come through land borders, he said. — Bloomberg / pic AFP